“Josiah, answer the door, please,” I called from the back room to my 14-year-old son. We had so many guests, and with the help of my two daughters, we were doing all we could to prepare the evening meal while my husband and older son settled the animals.
Josiah bounded in, “Mom, it’s another family who needs a room.”
“Tell them there is no room,” I shouted. “We haven’t had a room in three days! You know that!”
Josiah looked pained by my outburst, but he stood firm. “I think you should meet them,” he said.
“Sympathetic boy,” I scolded in a softer tone, rinsing and drying my hands.
“Seriously, Mom, I don’t think we can turn them away.”
“You can’t, but I can.”
As I said the words, I turned the corner and my eyes fell upon a young couple — a tired looking man and a young woman, no more than Josiah’s age, who looked as if she would give birth any moment.
Inwardly I groaned. Josiah was right. I couldn’t turn them away.
I sighed and said, “You are looking for a room?”
“Yes, ma’am,” the man replied. “We’ve traveled from Nazareth for the census.”
“You and everybody else,” I nodded. “We don’t have any room. You can see we have taken to putting people in every corner of the house.”
I gestured around the dark great room. Men, women and children from all parts of Israel met my eyes. All had come “home” to meet the requirements for the government census. They lined the walls, looking like refugees.
The young man looked around the room, then turned his tired eyes back to me.
“Yes, ma’am, I know, but my wife is about to give birth,” he put his arm around the young woman as she cradled her bulging stomach.
She said nothing, but in the moment our eyes met I seemed to feel every bump the poor girl must have felt throughout her long journey.
“What’s your name?” I asked the man.
“I am Joseph,” he replied.
“And yours?” I asked the young woman gently.
“Mary,” she said softly. Then she looked down, grasped her stomach and began breathing heavily.
“Is the baby moving?
“Yes,” she panted. A moment later, I could tell the pain had passed.
I turned my attention back to her husband. “We really have no room,” I said, “but Josiah can make you a place in the cave out back where we bed the animals. It isn’t much, but it is warm and dry.” I glanced again toward the young woman. “The baby will be here by morning.”
“Thank you,” Joseph said, and I saw tears of gratitude pool in his eyes. “We have checked every home for miles. There is no room anywhere. We are grateful for your kindness.”
“Yes,” Mary said. “Thank you.”
“Josiah, help the man with his animal. Miriam,” I shouted to my younger daughter in the back room, “please get some bedding and take it to the cave.”
“But Momma, we have no bedding,” Miriam said, coming into the room. “We’ve used every stitch.”
“Then give them mine,” I said. “We must make the young woman as comfortable as we can.”
My children rushed to do as I had said. I walked with Joseph and Mary through the front door and around to the back of our home, where my husband was working
“Zach, this is Joseph and Mary, from Nazareth. I’ve told them they can sleep in the cave tonight.”
My husband looked up, beginning to protest, but when he saw the young couple, he simply nodded.
“We’re glad to have you,” he said. “We’ll do our best to make you comfortable.”
“Thank you,” Joseph said.
Just then Miriam appeared with my bedding.
“Let’s spread it out here, next to the manger,” I said, lighting the lantern hanging on the wall of the cave. The cow and her calf watched impassively from the spot they had chosen to bed down in the corner. The sounds of the city seemed to echo off the walls.
“I know this isn’t the quietest place … or the cleanest,” I said. “Miriam, bring me the broom so I can sweep this out.”
Miriam bounded out and returned quickly, carrying the broom. Mary leaned against the wall of the cave. The pain of her labor crossed her face again. Joseph went to her quickly.
“Miriam, go. Fetch the midwife,” I said. Miriam bounded out again. To Joseph I said, “You may want to wait outside.”
“I’ll stay with her a little longer,” he said. “She is so young.”
I finished sweeping and spread fresh straw next to the manger. I laid the bedding on top of the straw. Satisfied with my work, I said, “Now, come over here and lie down. You will probably be more comfortable with your back against the wall.”
With Joseph’s help, Mary settled into the crude bed I had fashioned. Then, the labor began again.
“Is she all right?” Joseph asked, worried.
“Yes, she’s fine,” I said. “She’s very close, though. Go. Ask Zach for a bucket of clean water.” Joseph nodded and dashed out.
“This is harder than I thought,” Mary said, sweat forming on her forehead.
I smiled. “You’re doing fine.”
Just then, another wave of pain crossed Mary’s face. She pushed again, just as Miriam and the midwife rushed into the cave. Joseph also appeared with the water.
“I’m here,” the midwife said. “My name is Aliza.”
Examining Mary, she said, “Everything looks good. Don’t be afraid.”
Mary nodded. Then, she cried, “It’s coming again!”
“Almost here!” Aliza said. “Push one more time.”
I lifted Mary up, supporting her back with one hand and holding her hand tight with the other. She pushed.
“He’s here!” Aliza exclaimed.
“It’s a boy!” Joseph cried.
Mary smiled. “Of course, he is!” she said.
“Momma, come here!” Josiah called. “You have to see the star!”
“I can’t right now,” I called back.
“It’s amazing!” he called back. “It’s the brightest star I’ve ever seen!”
“In a minute,” I called back. “We have a new baby here that outshines any star!”
Aliza and I rinsed the baby, swaddled him and handed him to his mother.
“He is perfect!” Mary said, holding him close.
“Yes, he is,” said Joseph, smiling proudly.
“Listen,” Aliza said. “What is that?”
I craned my head to hear. “It sounds like … singing,” I said.
“Yes,” Aliza agreed, “almost like a chorus of angels.”
By Ann Lovell