It was the night before Christmas, and Mary’s back hurt worse than at any time since she got pregnant. She felt as big as a house, and tired. Oh, so tired. The trip from Nazareth had been long and hard, and then when they finally got to Bethlehem, they couldn’t find a place to stay.
All their relatives had given their guest quarters to others. The only place available was with the animals. It gave them some protection from the elements, at least, but sleeping on the hard floor wasn’t going to help her sore back any.
But then her baby kicked. This little miracle who she was to name Jesus. He would come into this world and become know as Immanuel—God with us, or so the angel had said.
Angel. She could hardly believe an angel had actually talked to her, told her she had found favor with God, that she’d get pregnant without having intimate relations with a man, that her baby would be called the Son of God and would take the throne of David and reign forever. Forever?
The amazing thing was, her betrothed also had an encounter with an angel. She didn’t find out until she got back from visiting her cousin Elizabeth. She’d dreaded talking with Joseph. How could she explain about being pregnant? She saw how people looked at her, heard the whispers. Her own family argued about what would become of her. They knew Joseph, being an honorable man, would not want anything to do with her now.
But he did. Later he told her he’d made up his mind to divorce her quietly. He was so kind. Though he thought her unfaithful, he still wanted to spare her as much public humiliation as possible. But before he could act on his decision, an angel came to him in a dream, he said. Everything he learned verified everything Mary had heard from her angel.
Gabriel, his name was. Joseph didn’t remember his angel’s name or even if he’d given a name. He didn’t need to because there was no question he was from God and the message was God’s. Everything he said pointed to the fact that her son, the son she and Joseph would raise together, would be special. How could he not be?
And here he was, kicking inside her. It was all so scary. The angel had told her not to be afraid, but he’d been talking about a different kind of fear than what she was feeling now. How could she be a mother? She didn’t have her own mother or Elizabeth or any of the women in Nazareth to go to for help. Who could she talk to when she had to nurse her son for the first time or when he got sick or woke crying in the middle of the night? How was she to know what to do?
Then there was the actual birth. It couldn’t be long now. She’d be so glad to have this baby out. Except she knew enough about births to know she was in for hours of pain. Most likely. In all her fourteen years, she’d only heard of one birth when the baby came quickly. Most of the mothers were in agony for hours, crying out against the pain over and over. And some of the babies didn’t survive the ordeal. Some of the mothers didn’t either.
But her baby would make it, that she knew. He had a destiny, foretold by angels. Jesus. What kind of a boy would he be? What kind of a man would he become? How could he who would grow up as a carpenter’s son become a ruler of his people? Yes, he was of the ancestral line of the kings, physically through her and legally through Joseph. But no king had ruled over Israel for, what, hundreds of years. Why would anyone think her son would be any different from the many other descendants of King David?
Would he have to fight to take his rightful place? Would he be a brilliant orator and win the people to him? Maybe he’d be like Moses and show the people signs to convince them that he was of God—the son of God—so that they would follow him.
Maybe . . . but now more than her back hurt. These pains . . . weren’t just from Jesus kicking . . . She needed to talk to a midwife. Could Joseph find one in this city? If not, he’d have to help her. She couldn’t do this alone. What could she use to put around her baby’s little body? Where would she put him? Someplace where she’d know he was safe when she slept. And, oh, she needed to sleep.
But this pain . . . should she wake Joseph and send him to look for a midwife? She should have thought of that when they first arrived, but they’d been so focused on finding a place to stay. Another . . . pain. Stronger. Harder. Was this what labor felt like? Was Jesus on his way?