Lo, how a rose ere blooming
From tender stem hath sprung
Of Jesse’s lineage coming
As men of old have sung…
Mary and Joseph sup with us this night. We laugh and chat and eat as if Caesar were not turning the entire province upside down with this census. At least the rest of us eat; Mary picks at her lamb and lentils, though she insists she feels fine. But I can see the child has dropped lower. Her time must be very near.
I halt Joseph before he goes to bed, ask if he does not wish to leave Mary with us for a few days. Relief lightens his eyes for a moment, but he shakes his head. They must register together—and besides, he says Mary does not wish it.
“She wants to be there.” His eyes, dark with the responsibility he carries, ask me to understand.
And I do. So with a squeeze on his arm, I let him go.
Who am I, after all, to think I could alter the plans of the LORD? Yet I am a woman, a mother. And she is my cousin. Surely God can understand that. But someone will open up a place to them in Bethlehem. Surely.
We watch them go in the pearly light next morning. John snuggles sleepily under my chin, Zachariah’s hand firm and comforting on my shoulder.
So small they look, two from Galilee, winding their way down the path—so young. The air is clear enough I can just make out the irregularity below the horizon that is Bethlehem. God willing, they should reach there before dark.
‘But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth from Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity.’ Therefore He will give them up until the time when she who is in labor has borne a child…
Oh, Lord, protect them…help them. Be with them.