"Come on, Mary," Joseph urged. "We haven’t much further to go." He stopped and hugged his young wife. "I know the baby is due soon. We’ve got to find a place to stay." Exhausted and anxious, Joseph sighed heavily as he looked around. He spotted a place just a few hundred feet away. "You stay here. I’m going to try this place." Running toward the house, he stumbled. Catching himself before he fell, he rebuked himself, Get it together, Joseph. Your wife’s having a baby.
Arriving at the small mud-baked house, he shouted, "Wake up! We need your help. My wife’s having a baby. We need a place to stay."
A scruffy man opened the door. "What’s the matter with you, man! We’re all trying to sleep."
"But my wife’s about to have a baby she needs a place to rest and to - - -."
"Yeah, I know all about it. It’ll be hours before that baby arrives. Go away. We haven’t room for you." He slammed the door shut. It was the tenth rejection.
Joseph stood dismayed that people refused to help. "Well, that’s a fine how-do-you-do!" He muttered. "Whatever happened to the law of the desert: offering travelers a place to stay at night." He slowly staggered back to Mary.
"Uhhhh," he heard Mary cry out in pain. "Joseph, please hurry. The baby is coming soon!"
"I know, I know, Mary." He ran to the next house.
Desperately, he looked toward the heavens, "Please, God. We need a place to have this baby. Remember: you told us this is YOUR child. You need to provide a place for Mary to have this baby."
A still voice spoke to Joseph. "The next house will give you refuge."
Joseph hurried to the house. Pounding and shouting on the door, he yelled, "Please, please! We need a place to stay. My wife’s having a baby . . . like right now."
Again, the man of the house turned him away.
A beaten man, Joseph walked away.
"God, I thought for sure, I understood you. I thought you said these people would give us a place. But no," he said sarcastically. "We’re still homeless and the baby is coming within a couple hours."
Hymn "O Little Town of Bethlehem"
In the house Joseph had just left, the wife was talking with her husband,
"But dear, they haven’t a place to stay. He said she’s having a baby. We’ve got to do something."
"Look around, Ruth!" He swept his arm around the room, "Do you see any space where a man and woman could sleep? No! All our family and friends have come to Bethlehem for the census. There’s no room for a man and wife; let alone a woman having a baby."
"But Hosea, she’s having a baby! She’s got to have place to have a baby," she pleaded. Silence filled the night. "I know. They can stay in the barn. The animals might keep them warm. We can spread some hay for them to sleep on. You call them back here." She was already heading toward the barn.
"I don’t know what it is about that woman. Always taking in the homeless," sighed Hosea.
He opened the door and shouted,
"Hey, mister, come on back. You and the missus can sleep in the barn. My wife’s on her way to prepare a place. Hurry now."
"Thank you so much," Joseph sighed in relief.
"Yes, thank - - -," Mary began, but the pain of another contraction gripped her and she cried out in pain.
Joseph took her arm and helped her to the barn while Hosea took their meager belongings and led the mule to the barn.
Ruth had spread the hay on the ground, found an old blanket and laid it on the hay.
Joseph tenderly helped Mary to the ground. "Everything will be all right, Mary," he whispered and gently stroked her cheek. "I’ll see if this kind woman knows of a midwife to help with the birth. You rest now."
Ruth had already started toward the house.
"Ma’am," Joseph shouted. "Do you know a midwife to help with the birth?"
Ruth heard Mary cry out in pain and hurried back to the barn. "Too late for a midwife. I’ll have to deliver the baby." She looked at Joseph. Worry creased his brow and sweat dripped down his face, "Hey, don’t you worry. Birthing is natural. You run on up to the house. Tell Hosea I need some water. Hurry now. I’ll take care of your wife."
Joseph looked back at Mary with concern, but quickly followed Ruth’s orders.
Ruth’s mothering instincts were sharp. She spoke quietly to Mary, "Is this your first baby?"
Mary nodded and grimaced as another contraction grabbed her. Ruth let Mary hold her hand. "There it’s over . . . for now. What’s your name, honey?" She busied herself, making her guest as comfortable as possible was her job now.
"My name is Mary. Joseph is my betrothed," she waited to see what the older woman would say. Since her pregnancy became noticeable, the women in the village had avoided her.
"He seems like a nice guy, very concerned for you," Ruth answered calmly. She turned back away from Mary to gather more hay, Ruth thought, My Hosea would have a fit if he knew these two weren’t married. As a matter of fact, Mary should have been stoned months ago. But the past is the past. They seem like a nice couple. No need to condemn them. They’ve got enough going against them.
Ruth heard Mary gasped as yet another pain took hold. "Soon, Mary. Very soon, the baby will be here," she dabbed the sweat from Mary’s brow.
"Oh here comes Joseph with water."
"Here you are, ma’am," Joseph panted as he’d been running. "I don’t think you husband’s happy about us being here," he announced as he handed her the bucket of water and cloths." He lowered his voice and asked, "How’s Mary doing?"
Ruth glanced at Joseph. She wanted to curse him for Mary being pregnant and not married. But that thought was quickly replaced with a slight smile. Ruth’s eyes sparkled, "She’s doing fine, Joseph. You go on now. Take care of your mule." Within minutes, Mary pushed one more time and Ruth caught the baby in her hands. A smile spread across her face. "It’s a boy," she announced to Mary. Upon hearing the cry of the baby Joseph hurried back. Ruth looked back toward Joseph, she said, "You have a fine son."
She washed the baby, wrapped him in the cloths, and gave him to his mother. Ruth looked admiringly at the baby and his mother. Turning toward Joseph, she added, "You two stay here. Everything will be okay." Glancing toward the house, she added, "Hosea is always so sharp. We really do have a houseful. They will be anxious to see this wee one in the morning."
As she turned to leave the barn, she heard Mary singing the baby a lullaby.
Solo "Rock-a-Bye, My Dear Little Boy"
Ruth turned to go to her house when the sky brightened as if was day. She heard what sounded like music. Ruth fell to her knees and covered her eyes. "Oh, my God, what is happening! What is that noise," her voice trembled? Gradually, she began to understand some words.
"Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to all men on whom his favor rests."
Hymn "Angels from the Realms of Glory"
Although she’d never heard the angels sing, the music was so perfectly harmonized, so appropriate for the evening she was sure it was the angels. She paused and listened intently. Looking skyward, she shielded her eyes from the brightness and reflected on the sound, "Did I really hear that?" she asked incredulously. "Could it really be angels singing, ‘peace to all men?’ Well, God only knows we could certainly use some peace on this earth. Those Romans have made our life difficult." Ruth looked back again. The family was sleeping. The baby was resting on his mother’s chest. Ruth allowed a smile to cross her face. To think I almost missed the blessing of a baby, she thought. And that music, I think I’ll keep this blessed event to myself. Besides, no one would believe me, anyway. Ruth returned to her house to sleep.
Hymn "What Child is This?" verse one
Early the next morning, Ruth fed her family and guests. Then she gathered some food together for the young family in the barn and walked to the barn.
"Hello, my friends," she called out. "I have some . . ." Ruth was startled as she saw some smelly shepherds near the barn. They were visiting the young family.
"Excuse me," her voice reflected her exasperation. "What are you doing here? This woman just had a baby and needs her rest. Now, go away," she demanded.
"Yes, ma’am. We will, but first you’ve got to hear what happened to us. Then you will know why we are here," the oldest shepherd answered.
With her hands on her hips, Ruth stood between the young family and the shepherds. "Well, go ahead." Her lips were clinched tightly together. "Tell me," she ordered.
Hymn "While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks" Verses 1-4
"You see, we were only doing our job. We were watching the sheep. Suddenly we heard music and we couldn’t imagine what it was, so we decided it was the angels."
Ruth stood in amazement. Rarely was she ever at a loss for words, but at that moment, words failed her. The old shepherd thought she was going to rebuke him. He quickly added, "The angel also said, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’ Ma’am, it’s as the angel said. We have seen Christ the Lord."
Ruth’s mouth gaped open as she thought, God, is it possible that these shepherds, these smelly, despicable men have seen the same vision. Did they really, could this really be the Christ, the Messiah? Ruth stared in utter disbelief. She turned and hurried to the house as she wanted to share this wonderful news. Instinctively, she knew no one would believe her. Ruth stopped. She looked back at the barn where the family and the shepherd were. Ruth began to pray: "God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, you have heard the cry of your people. In the city of Bethlehem, this village, the smallest village of Judah, your son has been born. Thanks be to God. Thank you for allowing me to be a small part of this remarkable, historical day."