“Now, Centurion, I want you to take your Cohort into Bethlehem tonight. Right into the heart of the town, they’re a rebellious lot anyway, and with this Imperial Census…
Carefully, though, some of them have had to travel from the gods know where…”
Those were my orders, and here I am in the middle of Bethlehem, with chaos everywhere, crowds pushing and shoving, and many don’t seem to have anywhere to go except into the inns of the town…
Just a minute, what’s going on here?
“Sergeant! Get a squad in there to sort the drinkers out! No rough stuff they don’t want to be here any more than you do, just make sure everyone can get a drink.
“Sorry, do you want something? You both look exhausted, how can I help?
“Your baby is almost here, and now you need somewhere to rest tonight?
“You’re the husband? Tried everywhere? Nothing?
“Let’s see what we can do – You Soldier! You speak the language, take the Landlord’s woman, and get out and find the Midwife. NOW! It’s urgent man get on with it!
“Landlord, you come with me let’s see what there is round the back – mmm, barrel store, take to long to clear it, nothing on this one… stable block, anything there? What about this? It’s sheltered, Corporal – I need a couple of men here – get this cleaned up. Don’t worry about the beasts or the horses they are safe in their byres… get that fire going as well. Empty that feeding trough and clean it up, then there’ll be somewhere to put the baby… Oh my stars! This takes me back… I wonder how my little ones are…
“Ah… you’re the midwife? Good I’ll get the couple, Landlord! Blankets, hot water, quick man there’s not much time!
“Please come with me – what are your names? Joseph, Mary? It’s not perfect, but better than out there on the street… No, no, no need for thanks, it’s the least I can do, where have you come from? Nazareth? What a trek, in your condition Ma’am, I am so sorry… I will drop by later…
“Very good luck, and may your God bless you and keep you safe!
“The night’s well on now, as I look to the south I see the sun rising a glorious glow over the shoulder of the hills – wait a minute! The sun doesn’t rise in the south! It’s not tine yet, must be some kind of wildfire I guess.
“Hey! You! Where are you heading in such an almighty hurry?
“ You’re shepherds and you have been told to look for a baby in a stable? No it’s not daft – I know just the place! Come with me.
“Joseph? All well? Wonderful! Some visitors for you…
“The shepherds have gone, and the real dawn is with us, what I saw was the Glory of God’s angels, at least that’s what the shepherds told me, and they were there!
“Hello, again, I am so glad it has gone well for you. No. no, it is my duty to help!
“The child is looking at me. No. looking through me as I leave, what? I can hear him saying ‘Thank you’, to me, in my language, I swear it, he did… he did, he spoke to me!”
- – – –
- Joseph thinks about things
“At least we have somewhere to stay tonight! Last night in that barn was almost too much for me, Mary managed better, calm and graceful as always. I notice the inner light that was there when she heard the news, is surrounding her now… This couple took pity on us and gave us space for the night. I do hope my cousin in Bethlehem can put us up for the census, Mary is so close now, and I know it will be packed, I hear there is some sickness about, still only one more day travelling, I can’t think about the journey back yet… will it be three of us? I guess it might be…
When we passed Jerusalem I was overcome with a million thoughts whirling round in my head. The City of God, His own “Dwelling place”, the Temple Sanctuary forbidden to all but a few priests. I wonder what Jerusalem will mean to him? Will he announce himself there? Will he go into the Sanctuary? The Priests and Leaders will surely welcome him, as God’s Son, after all.
It has been quite a journey, good to stay with family and friends where we can, but it is very tiring for Mary, and I wonder if I am looking after her properly, it is lovely to be married, but such a responsibility for her, and me too, will he be like other children? Or will he know everything? My brother’s boy is such a cheeky lad… Mary tells me not to fuss, and wait, because she is sure God will give us all the guidance and help we need. I know it too, because of what the Angel told me, but I’m still nervous about it. It isn’t the start I expected!
I do hope I can teach him my trade, I remember my dad showing me how to hold a chisel, and how to make a lathe to turn wood on… – would love to teach our boy to love the wood, and to make nice things, I have made a cradle and a cot and some toys already, Mary laughed and said, “That’s enough for now!”
Oh, Mary you are tired, and I’m keeping you awake. Sleep now my love, I am sure we will be alright in Bethlehem, just one more day and we’ll be there.”