…the angel assured her, “Mary, you have nothing to fear. God has a surprise for you: You will become pregnant and give birth to a son and call his name Jesus. He will be great, be called “Son of the Highest.” (Luke 1:30-32: The Message)
Mary woke from a restless sleep,
head shifted slightly off the robes and blankets,
straw drawing lines across her cheek,
sticking, so she had to pick it away
with a half-awake hand.
Above her, too close certainly,
loomed the stomach and udder of a cow,
and for a moment she could not
think where or why she was—
a stable, surely,
but what was she doing on the floor of stable?
She hitched the cloak beneath her head
back up and rolled to her side again,
drew up her knees over the unaccustomed absence,
the pain and bone-deep weariness…
She sat up, pushed the cow
over with an urgent hand,
clutched her robes about her
and rolled to her knees.
And Joseph was there,
hurrying to her side,
drawn by even that little noise,
a bundle in his arms,
the baby in his arms,
held as he must have
held lambs in his shepherd days,
as tender as she might want,
and she sank back down
to receive that little weight,
more blanket and cloth than flesh,
to dig in, to unwrap, to find the face,
to uncover the eyes, the tiny hands,
of the miracle, and one hand caught
and held her little finger,
gripped the root of her heart,
and she fell forward into those eyes,
even as she lifted the mouth to her breast,
and he didn’t let go of her finger,
but held her fast, as he would, she knew,
hold her the rest of her life:
born of God,
God’s son, her baby,
her baby, her child.
Y’shua. God saves.
“Oh,” she sighed, “save me from this love,
from drowning in this tenderness,
in this living water of wonder.
I will lose myself gladly in these eyes.
And then she looked up to
see Joseph’s puzzled smile,
and around to take in the
shepherds talking quietly in their corner,
glancing nervously at her, at the babe,
trying not to stare, and suddenly
the world was there again,
stretching hungry, ravenous, hurting,
centered unknowing on this moment,
reaching away to the limits of her imagination,
and she felt the pull, the demand, the need,
plucking at her child, pulling him away already.
It was a though God had reached down
and touched the surface of the waters in this child,
and already ripples ran to the horizon,
ripples that would build to waves,
waves into a flood,
a second flood,
and this the ark with its few animals,
a man, his wife, a child,
these dusty shepherds who had come,
who had answered the first call of the heavens.
“Peace on earth” they had said.
“Peace at what price?” her heart demanded.
And she wanted to sink down
below the floor of the stable,
to root herself in earth,
to find a safe hole to hide
from the coming flood,
the second cleansing,
to hide the baby, her son,
for she feared already, this flood
would be one of blood (his blood?)
to wash the world.
Only the grip of his hand,
so tight on her finger,
the look in his eye,
so calm, so trusting,
kept her from leaping up and
running as far and as fast as she could.
And then Joseph was there,
close, his hand on her back,
her face, brushing back her hair,
stroking the tiny cheek at the breast,
and it was all ordinary again.
An ordinary miracle.
A new baby. Her baby.
And something in her bowed and worshiped.
Her free hand reached and
caught Joseph’s little finger,
their eyes met,
and she held on
held on tight.