Deacon Rick's Reflections
(December 6, 2002)
We live in a village that is small but friendly. I have friends that I play with and we go to school together. My father takes care of sheep with my grandfather and some others. I am going to take over when I am older.
My father has told us that we have to go away for awhile on business. Grandfather also. He has to go to the south and it will take awhile to get there so we have to take some things with us. So we have gathered some things for the trip. Grandfather, father, mother, my younger brother, my sister, and myself. Neighbors will take care of the house and there are those that will tend the sheep.
It is early morning when we set out. The air is crisp and the sun is just rising. There are two other families traveling with us. We meet in the town courtyard, have a prayer together, and head to the larger city, Nazareth.
We are told that since we belong to the tribe of David that we have to register in Bethlehem which is many days away. I have always wanted to go there. It will be fun.
It is late in the day when we arrive in Nazareth. There are several families there that will join us so we will spend the night and leave early tomorrow. That will give me time to look around Nazareth and see the sights. But my father says that there are things that need to be done first. We have to set up our tent and see that provisions are acquired for our meal later. This done, mother and sister begin the preparing of the meal. It is good. Some dried figs have been acquired for later. We have brought two goats with us for milk, as well as sheep for trading if needed.
Early the next morning we have to clean up the area and take down the tent. It is a simple cloth tent, easily rolled. I carry it with my own blanket and use one of the poles for walking. My brother, father, and grandfather use the other poles. Provisions are shared for carrying. The simple eating and cooking items are carried by my mother and sister as well as towing the goats along.
We meet the others in the courtyard there, pray, and head on. There are three couples that have joined us. They each have a donkey to carry their things and offer to take our heavier items. This is done and we set off. I note there is one woman who is with child. Her husband is a carpenter and has some tools with him.
It is nice to chat with them and to learn about different things. There are several days of travel ahead of us. It will take about seven or eight days to get to Bethlehem.
Stops along the way are made. Joseph, the carpenter, helps with fixing things that we need as well as doing some tasks in the various towns that we pass through and spend the night, so that may gather provisions for himself and his wife as trade for his work. It is fun to watch him work with his tools and mend tables and chairs. But he is also concerned for his wife as she cannot keep pace with us and places her on his donkey from time to time to let her rest and still keep up.
On the evening of the fourth day we arrive in a small village and note that Joseph is not with us. After setting up in a field and preparing our meal, they arrive. Several of the women help them get their area set up and help with the food. The woman with child is called, Mary.
It is the evening of the eighth day when our little group arrives in Bethlehem. We have picked up a few others along the way and we enter the city like a large family. Others have already arrived from other locations. The town is filled with people and it is noisy. There are groups of people that are leaving as they have already registered and are on their way home. There are several areas that visitors are using to set up and spend the night. Some have tents, a few have several tents. Many just find a spot and fix their meal and then roll out their blankets and sleep under the stars. It is not the rainy season so this will be no problem.
Grandfather and father have gone to see about the registration. They come back disappointed as it will be several days before we can go before the magistrate. Families are given numbers when they arrive. Our number is two days away.
Joseph and Mary arrive later. It is almost dark. Mary looks very tired and seems to be in pain. They stop and speak with my father and then head into the city. They need to get their number. My father tells us that Mary is about to give birth and they need better accommodations for the birth. They go on into the city.
My brother and I have finished our tasks and eaten our meal, and we ask if we might venture into the city to look around. After stern warnings about avoiding various things, we are given permission, especially after the insistence of our mother.
Bethlehem is a fine city. We walk by many market stands and see many shops. The palace is fine looking and the guards look at us with suspicion as we look into various places.
Suddenly as we have reached the outskirts on the other side of the city, we spot Joseph at the doorway on an inn. He looks sad as the innkeeper is speaking with him. He points to his donkey a few yards away with Mary sitting atop it. Looking back at the innkeeper, he gestures that she is about to give birth and needs a room.
The innkeeper tells him there is no room and goes inside as Joseph returns to his wife and donkey. They are about to go on when the innkeeper’s wife comes out and speaks with him and points to a spot nearby, a stable carved into the hillside behind the inn. Joseph smiles and thanks the woman and they head in that direction.
My curiosity has the best of me so I follow them. My brother is tired and wants to go back to our camp site. I watch as Joseph heads to the stable, and reluctantly head back to the camp site with my brother in tow.
It is later now and I can’t sleep. I get up and look around. My entire family is asleep. There are others around that are sitting up around their camp fires, some talking quietly, some fiddling with the fire, some just staring at the starry night. Figuring no one is paying an attention to me, I slip off into the city. I find that it is still a busy place, though much quieter than earlier. I go through town and find the inn and look back to the stable. There is a lone light there and I can make out Mary lying on a blanket with Joseph at her side. She seems to be in a lot of pain and cries out once in awhile. One of the cries is pretty loud.
Two women come out of the inn carrying a water bucket and some cloth and head into the stable. I can no longer see what is going on but it isn’t long before I hear the cry of a baby. The women seem to applaud and hug Joseph. After some other moving around, the women leave.
For some reason I am drawn closer to the stable. There is a magic attraction. Mary has just nursed the new baby and Joseph helps wrap the child in cloth and he places the baby in a manger that he has arranged as a bed. Mary is lying on a blanket next to the make-shift crib. I move closer and see their donkey close by, sort of acting as a barrier between the outside elements and the child. With just the now faint light I can see Joseph huddled close to Mary and the baby.
I am startled with sounds near me and turn to see local shepherds coming to the stable. They gather around the child and seem to be mesmerized by what they see. They actually kneel down near the child. Several have carried lights with them so the scene is clearer. I move very close to look at all this. I feel a wonderful, peaceful feeling all through me. This is not a regular baby, as I have seen many newborns in our village. This is something really special.
After awhile the shepherds have spent some time, they all nod to each other and leave. I still stand by the side looking in. Joseph covers the baby and Mary, and lowers the light until there is just a glow. Then he sits close to both to keep watch. He looks towards me and smiles. I didn’t think I would be seen. I smile back and turn and head back to our camp site.
It was a wonderful experience. The next morning I related all that had taken place. My father was somewhat upset that I had left the camp without permission, but my grandfather spoke in my defense, saying that I was just like him. He said that I probably have seen something that many of our ancestors had wished to have seen.
It was our turn for registering so we all gathered around the men as the magistrate counted us, had both my father and grandfather place their name on a paper.
We then went back to the camp site and put all things together and decided to leave right away as there was still daylight.
As we headed back home I could not get the images that I had seen out of my mind. What was this child to grow up to be? His father was a carpenter so it is assumed that he would be also. He would be something special ... especially around wood.
If there had been someone there that could have drawn the picture of the scene of that birth I am sure that I would have been in it.
Should it have happened, I would be the young shepherd leaving on his staff, just outside the stable door.
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< My thoughts on the birth of Jesus that came to me with images derived from the Gospel of Luke and other stories that I have heard and/or read through the years. Many calendars have the image of the stable in many forms but the one that caught my attention was the one described in the story given above and noted with curiosity the image of a small boy hiding in the corner of the cave. This gave me the fuel and images that I have written.
Deacon Rick Fisher - 6 December 2002 >