The arduous journey was nearing an end, and the young woman seated upon the donkey’s back shared its weariness. Both wore a coat of dust, as did the man by their side; though it hardly disguised their simple means as they waited in the line that stretched on endlessly.
The woman’s head, bowed in weariness, lifted, and light emanating from the smile in her eyes fell upon the man as he rested his hand protectively on her shoulder.
“Not much longer, Mary. Not much longer!”
Turning to look towards the crowded road before him, the great stonewalls of the city seemed no closer than they did one watch ago. Mary, catching the concerned droop of his shoulders reached out her own hand of comfort.
“Joseph, the Lord’s with us, guiding our steps. I feel His presence. There’s still time!”
With her words of assurance Joseph tenderly touched her face.
“Oh, my sweet Mary!”
Their gazes locking for a moment, the weariness rolled off Joseph as he lovingly took Mary’s tiny hand in his own, calloused and strong. Her hand nestled firmly in his, Mary’s heart rested, marveling yet again at this sojourn she and Joseph took together. A journey none around them, save the unseen angelic hosts gathered about, could begin to understand.
Not for the first time today, Mary’s heart drifted back to where this journey began nine months earlier. To Gabriel’s pronouncement, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.”
So Mary did not fear, even when the first pains began several hours earlier, and the gates of the city still seemed so very distant.
“Lord, I am still your servant,” Mary’s heart whispered with each new rolling pain. “May it be as You have said. My soul will glorify You, Lord, and my spirit will rejoice in God my Savior.”
And though peace reigned in Mary’s soul, Joseph noted a restiveness enter as she shifted uncomfortably upon the donkey’s back. Continuing to hold her hand reassuringly, he poured out his own heart to the Lord.
“I will rejoice in You, Lord! And I rejoice in Mary, in the wife You have brought to my heart. Lead us to a place of peace and safety where this child of promise will be born.”
Again their eyes locked, and Mary reached out her own small hand, gently stroking Joseph’s check.
“There is still time, Joseph.”
With Mary’s reassurance, he could look at the dusk falling gradually upon the hillsides and rest in Mary’s faith. Slowly, they drew nearer and nearer the census taker’s table ‘til at last the words fell from Joseph’s mouth, freeing them to enter the gates of Bethlehem.
Though the wait had been long, and the hour now late, a newly swaddled babe rested safely and peacefully in a manger freshly strewn with straw. And the rejoicing of Mary and Joseph’s hearts echoed throughout the heavens as angelic hosts glorified God for His faithfulness to the promise fulfilled this Bethlehem night.