By George Stahl
It was five days before the baby was going to be born. The parents didn’t know that exactly, but they had a feeling it was soon. What were they going to do? They had started on this journey some time ago, and they still had a two days ride to the city. “I don’t know if I can do this, Joe. I’m not feeling so good,” the young girl said looking at her husband. He reached out for her, as their hands touched, he felt how cold she was “Try to hang on. It’s not that far. One, maybe two days and we’ll be in a nice, warm place. You’ll see,” he told her, knowing that most of what he was saying was more of an unknown.
That night they found a group of Joshua trees that were growing close enough together that they made a good shelter. “Come on, we’ll stay here for the night. In the morning we’ll get a good start and be in the city by the afternoon,” Joe said to her, with a sense of confidence in his voice. She smiled and gently laid in the grass Joe had gathered for her.
He softly kissed her cheek. “It’ll all be good. You’ll see,” he whispered. Before he closed his eyes, he starred up at the sky, especially at a really bright star that seemed to wink at him.
The next morning, the sun came up over the mountain behind them, and they felt a rush of wonder, excitement and reassurance. “Come on! It’s going to be a good day!” Joe said as he helped his wife up. She smiled at him and touched his cheek. “It’s going to be a really good day, Joe,” she smiled. They were on their way.
That afternoon, they reached the gates of the city and sighed, knowing that they were there and that soon, the two would be three. “Come on, we’ll find a place to stay then we’ll get something to eat,” Joe said looking around at all of the people and stores that lined the streets.
“There Joe, over there. Maybe we can stay there,” she said pointing to an inn at the center of town. “Yeah, ok. That looks like a good place,” Joe said, leading them to the front of the building. “I’ll go inside. Wait here,” he said. She nodded. The sights and sounds of the city were taking most of her attention. She had only been to a place like this once in her life, and it was a little overwhelming. Joe came back out. “It’s this census. The inns are most likely full. We’ll keep looking though,” he said, walking his wife away from the door.
They searched until it was almost dark. No one had a room. Not at the inns, in private houses or at any of the outlying places. “I can’t believe that everything is taken. This is not how it is supposed to be, is it?” Joe said in frustration. “Don’t get like that, Joe. I need you to be strong for me, for us. We will find a place to stay. We have to. He can’t be born right here on the street,” the young girl said.
“Look, that place could have a room,” the girl said pointing to an inn near the edge of the city. “It’s worth a try,” Joe answered.
As they walked up to the path, a woman came out to meet them. “I have no more rooms. You’ll have to go away,” she said.
“Please, my wife is having a baby and we need a place for that to happen,” Joe said.
“Well, it ain’t happening here. I said I don’t have a room, not one. Zippo, zilch, that’s all she wrote, and no way, Jose!” the woman insisted.
“Come on, anything. We will take anything you have,” Joe said.
“Joe, she said no. No rooms. Let’s go,” the young girl said, turning a way. “Wait! I might have something. It’s not the cleanest, but it’s not the dirtiest I have,” the woman said.
Joe and his wife stopped and turned around. “It’s a manger, in the back of the property. No water, no oil, no nothing, but a bed. You can have it, at least until something comes up in the main house,” the woman said.
“We’ll take it!” Joe said, jumping at the chance of having a place where his wife could lay down and the baby could be born.
They stayed in the manger that night, and the next and the next. “Hey, how long are you going to be here?” asked the stable boy. “Until the baby is born. Why?” Joe said. “No reason, just that I kind of need you to be over there so I can clean this side of the manger. That side is just as comfortable, really,” the boy said.
Joe tried moving his wife, but she screamed and could not move. “It’s time, Joe! It’s time!” she said grabbing his arm. “Time? The baby? Hey kid! Get me some water, lots of water!” Joe yelled. The stable boy ran to the well with a bucket.
Sometime after midnight, after more screaming and yelling, the girl relaxed, laid back in the hay, and gave birth to a healthy baby boy with lungs like his mother. His crying and screaming could be heard all the way out in the fields and the shepherds came rushing in to see what was going on. They had never seen such a beautiful baby before. “He’s perfect. He looks like a little lamb,” one of them whispered. “A lamb from God,” said another.
The woman looked at Joe and smiled, holding the baby close to her. “I love you, Joe,” she said. “I love you too, Mary,” he whispered. “What’s his name?” the shepherd asked. Joe looked up at him and smiled. He looked down at the baby and gently said, “His name is…Jesus.”