One Quiet Night
Caked in bloody fluid, innocent flesh wiggled it’s way out of the constricting canal. Calloused, leathery fingers gently, but firmly grasped the matted, black hair and twisted the head back and forth to aid his arrival. With lungs bursting full of fluid, the newborn fearfully gasped to fill his chest with his first breath. Fear. For the first time, fear had overwhelmed the tiny form, a completely foreign feeling.
Wails of a baby’s first cry filled the square, adobe-like walls, as anxious bystanders peered over the worn mother’s limp shoulders to a get a glimpse at the newborn now being held high in his father’s burly hands. “My first born, son!” cried the father, but “the knowing” convicted his heart as he declared the words.
“He looks like his mother.” whispered an aunt to her daughter peeking through the narrow doorway that lead to the rooms upstairs, where the relatives crammed into the one guest room of the family abode. Overcrowded conditions had forced the young couple into the quarters were the animals were kept.
“How can you be sure who the father is?” jabbed a cousin from behind a pulled, tattered curtain. The new mother’s cheeks burned red. A lamb bleated for milk dripping from the nearby nipple of the ewe. The infant’s eyes blinked open at his mother’s sigh of embarrassment, but all he could see was blurry shadows. A land filled with shadows. He had known no shadows before now.
The father placed the screaming baby in the gentle arms of his mother. Blood smeared across her cheek, as she kissed his forehead. Born in blood. Skin to skin.
The warmth calmed the baby’s cries, as the father grabbed his freshly sharpened dagger tucked tightly in the worn leather belt that hung from his hip. He quickly grabbed the umbilical in his hand and sliced the life flowing connection between mother and son. Though not painful, the boy knew He was now separated from everything He had known before.
A new, gnawing sensation overcame him. Hunger. Again, a foreign feeling. Tears filled his clear, brown eyes, as he began to whimper and then nuzzle, his perfect lips sucking her skin searching for nourishment. The mother quickly pulled him to her engorged breast, as the tingling sensation of milk flowing surged. Quickly, the suckling soothed his tummy’s growl with the life–sustaining gold, as richness dripped from the corners of his mouth. Contentment spread over his tiny frame, while a sense of wonder filled his mother.
A warm, wet cloth enveloped the baby’s limbs one by one, leaving a clean coolness on his skin. Then strips of muslin were wound around and around with his arms and legs tucked up against his body, constricting and confining his movements. “How can the one who created the universe be confined in flesh?” thought the mother.
“What’s his name?” came the gruff voice of an uncle from across the room. “Jesus. His name is Jesus.” Joseph simply stated.
The uncle shook his head in disgust. “Couldn’t even give him a family name? Maybe the rumors are true. But why didn’t he just put her away quietly?” he thought to himself.
The baby knowing the condemning thoughts, glanced in the direction of the Uncle. Sadness rose. “What is this feeling, Abba? Abba? Am I all alone now? Do you hear me?” he thought.
A still voice from within whispered, “I’m right here, my son. Yes, you will now know sadness. You will be known as a man of grief. You will feel this often.” Again, a tear appeared in the corner of his eye, while two rams with manure caked bellies butted each other in the corner.
Cradled against the smooth skin of his mother, he drew a deep breath of air mingled with the musty scent of dirt, hay, lanolin, dung, and a pot of stew brewing upstairs. His eye lids grew heavy. He blinked to stay awake, but finally he gave in to sleep. While rocking and singing a soothing Hebrew lullaby sung throughout generations, his body went limp in his mother’s embrace. His breathing slowed and deepened.
Her voice trailed off, “numi numi k’tanati, numi numi nim!” (sleep, sleep, my little one, sleep, sleep, sleep!). The aunt shushed those remaining in the room sending upstairs and off to bed.
The mother and father stared at the child resting in her arms. “How can this be?” she thought. “The Holy, Great I Am, asleep in my arms?” She turned her face towards her young, betrothed husband. “How can this be?she thought. “The Holy, Great I Am, asleep in my arms?” She turned her face towards her young, betrothed husband. “How can this be?” she whispered.
A gentle knock came to the door. “Who could it be this late in the evening?” said Joseph. The thought of a cruel Roman soldier demanding a loaf of bread flew through his mind. Seething, his heart beat quickened and sweat beaded across his tanned forehead. He moved quickly to avert the intruders, before they woke the baby.
Reluctantly, the beaming face of a young shepherdess appeared in the darkened doorway. Light shone from her eyes as fire from within danced. Several other shepherdess crowded in behind her, pushing to see in.
“We’ve come to see the baby.” the leader of the small band breathless declared.
“The baby? How did you know/?” Joseph stood motionless for a moment. “Well. Come in. Come in. Of course, you can see the baby.”
A tale of a host of angels appearing in the sky announcing the birth of Messiah tumbled from their trembling lips all at once. “We left our sheep in the field, and ran to where the new star showed us.”
“The new star?” questioned Joseph. He ran outside to see for himself this miracle. With his head cocked backward, a glorious light shone above the Bethlehem home streaming beams of light like a beacon down to earth.
As the young girl cautiously approached Mary, the baby stirred. “Come. Come and see Messiah.”
He awoke staring into the face of a child not many years older than he. The young girl smiled, touching his cheek softly. “A baby. Messiah comes as a baby.” She turned to Mary. “The angel said, ‘Fear not. For I bring you tidings of great joy.’” She turned back to look into the gentle eyes. “Messiah.” With a hand on her heart, she stepped back for the others to see.
Great joy and compassion filled the heart of the baby, as he watched each shepherdess stare in wonder. “For these, Abba? I’ve come for these?”
“Yes, my son, for the least of these. They are ready to receive you.” came the whisper inside again.
“Abba, will all receive me as these precious ones?”
“No, my son, many will reject you. You will rejected by many in Israel. But not all.”
The door closed behind the young girls as they rushed into the night to tell others of the wonders they had just witnessed. As the story was retold to many unexpecting bystanders, the story of angels appearing to lowly shepherds, many wondered what could this miracle mean.
“Joseph, we need a place for Jesus to sleep.” Mary meekly reminded her husband.
“Of course, my dove. Of course.” He quickly looked around the room to see what he could use. The only thing suitable was a feeding trough for the animals. He sighed. “Why couldn’t Messiah have been born in a palace or to rich people? He is the King.” Joseph shook his head in dismay.
I am not fit to be the father of Messiah.” This time Joseph spoke to the ceiling.
“What is this feeling, Abba?” thought Jesus.
That is the feeling of guilt and condemnation. Our enemy’s finest weapons. Many will use that against you. One day you will bear all their guilt, my son.”
Jesus let out a small whimper at the thought. Mary checked his cloths. “Time to change him. I’ll take care of Jesus, my husband. You prepare his bed.”
The leg of the feeding trough was loose, so Joseph being a good carpenter always carried a nail and hammer in his cloak pocket. Resourcefully, he pulled out his tools and hammered the nail into the wooden plank holding up the trough. Bang! His hammer missed the mark smashing his thumb.
“Ouch!” He flung his injured finger back, then thrust it in his mouth sucking on it. Silently, he whispered curses under his breath. “I can not even get the manger fixed right!”
The sound of the hammer hitting the nail and thrusting through the splintered wood alarmed Jesus. As his father cursed in pain, a sharp sensation jabbed through the baby’s own wrist. An image of the nail being thrust through his tender flesh flashed across his mind. He wailed, as his mama patted dry his behind and wrapped him tightly in clean cloths again.
“Abba, is it true? Is that what I’ve come to do?”
Son, you’ve come to lay down your life, so that they can be free. I love them, my son, it is the only way.”
A lamb bleated beside him.. Jesus turned to look to see where the noise had come from. “Like a little, innocent lamb, Abba?”
“Like a little, innocent lamb, my son. You will become the sacrifice that takes away the sins of all mankind.”
Joseph finished his work, lay fresh hay in the trough, gently took Jesus from Mary, and laid him in the manger. The baby drifted off to sleep again, as the sheep settled around him. Joseph wrapped his arms around his exhausted wife. As she leaned back into his embrace, she too found sleep, while Joseph watchfully guarded the precious treasure that was entrusted to his care.
“For He (the servant of God) grew up before Him like a tender shoot (plant), and like a root out of dry ground; He has no stately form or majestic splendor that we should look at Him, nor (handsome) appearance that would be attracted to Him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrow and pain and acquainted with grief; And like One from whom men hide their faces, He was despised, and we did not appreciate His worth or esteem Him. But (in fact) He has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows and pains; Yet we ignorantly assumed that He was stricken, Struck down by God and degraded and humiliated by Him. But He was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our wickedness (our sin, our injustice, our wrongdoing); The punishment (required) for our well-being fell on Him, And by His stripes (wounds) we are healed.” Is. 53:2-5