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Previous Challenge Entry
Topic: Treasure (12/15/03)

TITLE: The Greatest Treasure
By Glenda Lagerstedt


Co The Greatest Treasure

She was full of hopes and plans for the future. Her dark eyes dancing, she waltzed about the small room, dreaming about the upcoming marriage. A smile played across her face as she lifted her eyes and gazed out the window. Soon she would be a married lady and live in a new home, one of her own, and there would be children, lots of children. Her smile widened to a grin as she saw a small boy accompanied by an excited puppy racing toward the house.

“Matthew,” she greeted her nephew as he bounded up the stone steps and into the room. “What a nice surprise to see you!” She drew him into her warm embrace and looked over his head at her sister who had followed Matthew into the tiny cottage. “What ever brings the two of you here at this time of day?”

Matthew danced gleefully around the room. “Tabitha had twins! A boy and a girl!” His mother patted him affectionately on the head, and said, "Run along now and keep that dog of yours under control. We have to leave soon." The bride-to-be smiled at her sister fondly and with raised eyebrows commented, “Another dog.” Leah rolled her eyes in mock exasperation and replied, “You know that boy. If it has four legs, he’s hooked.”

Arm in arm the sisters stood together watching the antics of the duo in the courtyard. “So how are Tabitha and the twins doing? My goodness, twins! She didn’t look big enough to be expecting twins.”

Leah laughed. Leah had been a midwife for several years now and had assisted at the births of dozens of new babies. “She had me fooled,” she admitted. “Its the first time I've been surprised by a secret second arrival.” Laughing harder, Leah bent double. “But you should have seen Peter’s face when I told him he was the father of two babies instead of one! He didn't even say a word. He just kept opening his mouth and closing it. Like a fish!”

Wiping tears of laughter from her eyes, Mary hugged her sister. “Some day you will be helping me deliver my child,” she whispered softly. “Perhaps within a year.”

But it wasn't going to be this way, and the big marriage celebration was not going to take place either. Soon Mary had to tell the young man she was in love with that she was going to have a child. He knew the child wasn't his.

Tears fell freely down Mary's cheeks as he turned abruptly on his heel, white faced and fists clenched, and strode away into the night. She listened as the sound of his footsteps faded away, then turned and walked wearily into the house.

She sat at the table and rested her aching head on its smooth surface. She sensed her mothers concerned look and felt a hand gently touch her shoulder. "Go to bed now. Get some rest, child" The words were soothing but Mary's spirit was troubled. "No. I must wait up for awhile."

As she sat alone in the darkness, Mary prayed silently. She knew that there would be difficult times ahead, that people would doubt her, and that there would be whispers of shame. She knew that the man she loved was agonizing over this unexpected news. "Lord, help him. Reassure him. Have your way in our lives."

Having surrendered her will to God's she dozed off and was wakened at dawn by a gentle tapping at the door. Her beloved stood in the doorway, and she knew at once that he had found peace in his inner being. Silently they embraced and there was deep understanding in the air around them.

The wedding ceremony was simple, and shortly afterward Mary went to spend some weeks with her cousin Elizabeth who was also expecting a child. Time passed quickly, and soon Mary's own time for delivery drew near. She gently rubbed her swollen stomach and said, "Soon, little one. Soon your Aunt Leah will be helping us get you born." She smiled softly.

Later in that week Joseph arrived home early from his family's carpenter shop. "We have to make a trip to the city," he told her. Noticing her questioning expression, he assured her. "Don't worry. We will stay at an inn in the city. It will be a special time."

The following morning very early they headed off on their journey. It was a very long trip, but when they finally arrived Joseph learned that the inn was already full. They pushed on, stopping every place, only to learn that they, too, were filled and overflowing. Desperation had set in when finally one inn keeper directed them to a humble space at the rear of the establishment.

It wasn't what they had hoped for, but they were exhausted and grateful to just have a place to sleep.

A few hours later, Mary was awakened by a small stab of pain. She shifted her position and dozed off again. Suddenly she sat upright as another pain took hold of her. "Joseph!" she moaned, still not fully awake despite the pain. "Get Leah...please get Leah." Joseph sat up groggily. "Leah?" he asked. "Leah's not. . ." Mary moaned again, and Joseph was instantly wide awake.

The child was coming. Frantically Joseph ran and pounded on the door. "My wife. . . the baby is coming . . . I need a doctor. . . midwife." There was no answer to his pleas.

Mary labored bravely to bring forth the child she had been carrying. The room as damp and cool, but sweat stood out on her forehead. There was a musty and unpleasant in the room. But worst of all, Leah was many miles away. This was supposed to be happening safely at home with Leah's strong capable manner alleviating the pain and the fear. It wasn't supposed to be this way.

But at last the Child was born. Joseph looked tenderly at his wife and the Child, and they both were full of awe at the Life that now filled the humble stable. He reverently passed a blanket to Mary, and she swaddled the Child tightly and laid him on a bed of soft hay in a manger. The King of Kings, the Treasure of the Ages, had been born in Bethlehem.

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