A CHRISTMAS STORY

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MARY ON DONKEY
A Christmas Story by Sherry Crowson Evans

The cool air swirled around her feet giving her an unwelcome chill. The animal beneath her bristled. She wondered about the unknown. The babe kicked from inside the womb, a gentle reminder of what was to come. “Am I ready for this?” she pondered. “God will be my strength,” was the assurance from within. The journey was far. Joseph tirelessly walked onward even though last night he was the watchman. The caravan was slow. The large robust group had made good time and were probably already in Bethlehem. Joseph had insisted they stay behind with the stragglers, the elderly, the sick, and those expecting. The trip would take twice as long but Joseph was right not to take chances with such precious cargo.

The days were grueling with frigid temperatures, rain and sickness all around. Mary’s heart went out to the suffering around her. Mary wished for an end to the days but the nights were worse. Hungry animals prowled the edge of the camp each evening. And rumors of bandits floated throughout the camp from terror stricken lips. Mary knew God would protect them but unwelcome fears still lurked. The days stretched on. Mary dreaded giving birth on the road. Her heart silently pled, “If only we can make it to Bethlehem before the babe arrives.”

When the first pangs began to start, Mary feared they would not make it in time. By the time Bethlehem’s gates were visible the regular spasms caused her to catch her breath…people everywhere, noises and smells. Nausea made her dizzy as Joseph paced determinedly from house to inn in search of a resting place. He could see she was in pain. The furrowed lines etched upon her brow told him that time was short. There was no room. Would No one show any kindness to a young girl when her time had come?

The last innkeeper opened to the knock of Joseph’s shaking hands. “Sir, my wife…” Joseph pled. The desperation in his voice caused the innkeeper to look beyond the man to the young girl atop the mule gritting her teeth amidst the pain. This innkeeper was not known for kindness. He was a business man. But the haunting eyes of the girl in such straights caused him a momentary pause. “You can take her to the Livery. It’s dry and warm there. I can do no better. GO!”

Joseph stood in shocked silence, then quickly gathered his charge and entered the mouth of the cave. Mules with servants milling around parted and made a path when they saw the young girl. The atmosphere was quieter and more serene in this alcove, sheltered from the outside chaos. Female servants hurried over when they realized the state of things. Joseph now searched for a midwife. Time was short. Things were happening too quickly for Mary. This was not what she’d envisioned. The babe was coming in a stable. This was no place for a king! The pains were strong and unlike anything she had ever known. She wished for her mother or sisters. And then it was finished. Cries echoed into the cavern. Mary’s eyes watered at the first sight of this babe. The babe cooed softly and with wide eyed wonder he stared out into the world. His mother searched his eyes. She felt an electricity, an intangible force was felt by all. This babe knew her soul.

The midwife returned with Joseph just in time to see all was well. Joseph felt the power in the room and timidly approached. Gingerly taking his adopted son in his arms for the first time the weight of the responsibility hit him hard. Joseph searched the eyes of the child and wondered if he was able to provide for this small babe of wonder. His eyes were mesmerizing. A peace filled his soul. He was comforted.

Joseph placed the babe in the arms of his mother and looked up all could feel a slight tremor in the air. Everything was changed in the short span of time since the babe had come. People spoke in hushed tones of reverence. The activity of angels was unknown yet overpowering, causing the air to be electric and alive. The babe saw the angels about and giggled aloud sending chills throughout the group of onlookers as his mother smiled at the sound. Outside a solitary star outshone the moon guiding others to share this vision. Shepherds entered the cavern in search of the truth. Unbeknownst to all, this night the universe would never be the same.

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