“Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting light
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight…”
So much waiting, and now everything is happening too fast.
Dusty sandals hurry past me as I huddle in the street corner. Joseph settled me here when I could walk no farther, while he keeps searching for an inn, a room, something. Woodsmoke from many fires stings my eyes. Merchants hawk their wares to the streams of journeyers come to register, goats bleat, tired children cry.
I run shaking hands over my tightening abdomen. Oh my little one, after all these hundreds of years, could you not wait just a bit longer?
The pains started soon after we left Elizabeth and Zachariah’s, though I didn’t realize what they were at first. But by afternoon we had to stop every few minutes, lagging us far behind the other travelers.
Someone nearly trips on me and moves on with a yell and a curse. I curl onto my side. God, help me. Where is Joseph?
Then he is kneeling beside me, touching my shoulder, saying something about a place and no room. He helps me to my feet, but I double over after a few steps, and he lifts me into his arms. How can he manage, heavy as I am?
Joseph is running, stumbling, his sandals slapping the dirt, dodging between travelers and tradesmen, his heart thudding beneath my ear. I cling to him, trying not to moan at the jolting. Oh, Lord, why does it have to be like this? Why have You made no room for us, for Him?
The light and noise fades, and Joseph eases me down where familiar scents of manure, sheep, and hay sting my nose, keeping me within the circle of his arms until the pain passes. I relax back, and starlight illumines the rough contours of a cave, the twitching ears of a curious goat, Joseph’s panicked face.
I reach to touch his bearded cheek. “It’s all right.”
He shakes his head and presses my hand between his. But I cannot answer, can only grip his fingers and pray for strength. A great fist is squeezing me, crushing me so I can barely breathe. Joseph strokes back my hair with a trembling hand.
“Lord God, help her.”
The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God…For nothing will be impossible with God.
With the memory trickles a peace, and I can breathe again. And a holy Presence fills the stable, and I know He is with us. And my baby is coming—now, here, in this lowest of places, dark and dirty like the world that needs Him so.
Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God…you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus…and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end…
Originally posted December 24, 2011.