Through Mary's Eyes
I awoke that morning so cold that my fingers felt like ice. I could feel the bitter bite of the draft that had been swirling around the stall. I tried to snuggle deeper into the hay and up closer to Joseph, but then realized he was not there. He must have just gotten out of bed, as the hay was still warm from where he had been lying. I would imagine Joseph was out tending to the animals, for I could hear the sound of hooves tapping on the pavement as they do so often when he brings the bucket of food out for them. As I was lying there so still, trying to soak up any heat I could find, I began to feel the baby moving around inside of me. As I placed my hands across my belly and began to hum quietly to try and sooth his stirring, an overwhelming sharp pain came upon me. Instantly my thoughts began to race. Oh Lord, is this the day? I am not ready. I cannot have the baby here in a cold, dirty, cattle stall. Please do not come yet. Please, please wait! But the more I began to cry out to the Lord, the harder the birth pains kept coming.
I lay there for what seemed like hours. Sweat had begun to bead upon my forehead as the contractions started coming harder and closer together. I was in too much pain to cry out for Joseph. I could only lie there and clench my teeth as each wave of pain flowed over me. Finally, I heard a loud bang. It was Joseph! The strong winds had slammed the door behind him as he entered the stall. I let out a loud gasp, and he came running to me. When I saw his face, I began to cry as I told him how scared I was and that the baby was coming today. He helped me sit up and wrapped me in a wool blanket that he had found outside while feeding the animals. It was old and worn with the smell of cattle and the blanket was rough on my skin, but I was so incredibly grateful for the extra bit of warmth it provided.
I voiced to Joseph that we needed to immediately start preparing for the baby's arrival. We would need somewhere to lay the baby once he arrived so he could sleep. We both looked around the stall until both our eyes met. We instantly knew that the only place was the old, dirty manger in the corner of the stall, caked with small pieces of hay. Joseph ran outside to quickly return with an arm load of fresh straw. He began to separate the sections of straw and placed them inside the dirty manger, creating a cleaner place for the baby. My thoughts were saddened that our newborn baby would have to sleep in such a place. At home we had a beautiful wooden bed that Joseph had worked on for weeks. As Joseph finished preparing the bed in the manager, as if on cue, the birthing pains became intense, and the baby began to make his way into the world.
Joseph's hands were shaking as he placed the baby on my chest. Tears were flowing from my eyes as I wrapped my arms around the crying baby. Here I lay, holding this precious baby who had just come into the world, just like the angel had told me nine months ago. "Why me?" I thought. I was given the most wonderful blessing ever; I get to be Jesus' mother. Joseph leaned down and gathered both of us into his strong arms, waking me from my thoughts. We lay there in awe as we held the King of Kings. The Savior of the world was nestled between our chests. It seemed as if the whole world had stopped during those moments. Usually, you could hear the cattle making noises as they munched on hay, or the faint bleats of the sleeping sheep. But at this very moment, all was so noticeably quiet. The stall was so peaceful and still, even the winds outside were not to be heard.
After lying there for a while, I could feel the coolness of the stall starting to surround us. Tucked away in the satchel that held our few belongings for our journey to Bethlehem was some cloth I had brought. As I barely got the words out, Joseph nodded his head and went to the corner of the stable where the satchel sat. He grabbed the material from the bag and began tearing it into strips as he brought it back. I tenderly laid Jesus down and wrapped him up with each strip, swaddling him, making sure that all his little toes and fingers were snug and warm. As I rocked him in my arms, my heart melted with every little sound he made, and tears of joy filled my eyes as I watched our new little baby lie there sleeping.
It was then that I realized this incredible brightness coming from outside as it was penetrating through every crack of the stall. Outside we began to hear voices of several men and the bleating of sheep. I immediately looked at Joseph and asked him with a bit of panic in my voice, "Who is here?" He looked at me a bit puzzled himself as he pulled himself up off the cobblestone floor, dusting hay from his clothing, and made his way over to the door. As he opened it, I could make out a group of men who looked like shepherds from their clothing. I could hear them quietly talking to Joseph but could not make out exactly what they were saying. Joseph quietly shut the door and walked slowly back toward me. His face was perplexed, almost amused. He sat down beside me and said, "Mary, there is a group of shepherds here. They told me that an angel appeared to them while they were tending to their flock. They were extremely afraid at first, but the angel told them not to be afraid, that he had come to share great news." I looked at Joseph to see if he was trying to pull another one of his jokes on me, but I could see by the look in his eyes that he was serious. He then continued about how the shepherds were told they would find the Savior of the world, wrapped in swaddling clothes here in Bethlehem. That a bright light had led them to this stall. "They would like to come in and see Jesus," he said softly. I slowly nodded my head yes as my mind began to race. "Is this just the beginning of the things to come?" I thought to myself. I do not know if I am ready for this. Lord, are you sure you have not made a mistake? I am just a young girl; who am I to be the mother of the Savior of the world?
Joseph walked back to the door. As he opened it, about a dozen shepherds began to file into the stall. Their faces beamed with excitement as they got closer to us. They glanced at the baby, then to me, then back to the baby again. "Come." I said. "Come and see Jesus." They slowly inched closer as some of the men nudged others to try and squeeze in a look. Their faces were full of amazement, and some of the men had tears in their eyes. They made their way around the manger as they praised God and lifted their hands toward Heaven. They told us about the amazing chorus of angels they witnessed and how their voices were the most beautiful thing they had ever heard. About the vast array of angels and that they could not count them, for there were too many. "When the angels left," one shepherd said, "we knew we had to go find the one of whom they sang!"
Later that evening after the shepherds had left, my body was totally exhausted. I felt myself nodding in and out of sleep. Joseph came over and helped me get settled into a makeshift bed he had created next to the manger. There we lay with our new baby, amazed at the events of the day and how God had chosen us, two simple people, to be the parents of Jesus. As I began to doze off, I reached my hand over to the manger and cupped my hand around the face of the one who had come to save the world.