The door opens and the innkeeper kicks a couple of old sacks aside and pulls some extra straw from a loft and leads the donkey to another corner of the room. He throws a rough wool blanket at the young couple and hold out his hand for a payment. He rubs the coin and stalks away.
“Joseph,” Mary whispers. “I think that it is time.” He looks at her with wide eyes and arranges the straw for her to lie down. “I’ll find someone,” he says with less than the measure of assurance she would like to hear. “I’ll be right back.”
He rushes out the door and almost runs into the innkeeper’s daughter. She is twelve years old and had crept round to see the couple staying in the stable. The oldest of six, she had seen her mother grow as big as Mary. And she knew that the time was close. She held a second blanket in her hands and offered it to Joseph as he came stumbling out.
He sees her as an angel. “Please,” he takes her by the shoulders in his desperation. “Please, can you find a mid-wife? The baby is coming. It’s our first. Do you know where one might be?”
“I can take you to Anna, she lives just down the street. She always helps my mom. But she’ll want payment first. She’s kinda cranky.”
Joseph ducks back inside to tell Mary then leaves with the innkeeper’s daughter.
Mary is alone in the stable. She pushes back into the straw, adjusting the blanket, waiting for the next contraction, waiting for the birth, alone.The glory of the angel’s visit is nine months old. Immaculate conception – human birth.
Again her belly tightens. “Hurry Joseph,” she whispers and a tear runs down one cheek. She wipes it away and tightens her resolve, “Behold the handmaid. I will not let fear overwhelm me when the Lord has chosen me for a task. His choice is enough to give me courage; his strength enough to see me through.”
The midwife knocks and enters. Joseph shuffles in the straw in the corner rubbing the donkey’s muzzle for comfort, watching the messy miracle of a new born world.
The baby cries. As do we all.
Life breaks through. Redemption is born. The pain is not over yet, but recreation has begun.
I hear the baby’s cry.
Life arrives and I partake with grateful heart.