Jess Shut Up
There was a storm blowing. Bitter coldness caused the frost on his beard to freeze in a crust of ice. She rode, but felt the cold worse than he. She was wrapped in a big blanket and kept her head covered but it kept out nothing. The wind cut through like a knife and her tears were now frozen to her face. He kept pulling the mule forward, but even the animal had better sense than to be out in this horrid weather. They had gone too far now, the man thought, there is now way we can stop now. He knew they would die out here if they did not make it to the city.
So he trudged ahead. The mule kept stepping, even though he wanted to let his stubborn streak show. The woman from under the blanket reached down and rubbed her very pregnant stomach. As her eyes filled up again and immediately froze as the liquid escaped her lashes, her thoughts drifted.
She was home, with her mom and dad. They sat around a table, and her mother wept and her father had shame on his face and in his eyes. She hung her head. They did not believe her. Only moments earlier, they seemed eager to hear what she was telling them. But as she told them about the angel that had visited her and his words that were from God, their spirits changed and she could not help but feel the shame rush over her. Although there was no reason to feel it. She was telling the truth. An angel had visited her and, yes, she was carrying a child that was not from a man. She was still a virgin but not even the one she loved, the one she was to marry, believed that. He too was outraged when she told him. But she could not blame him, all this did sound crazy. If this was all happening to someone else and she’d heard the story she wouldn’t have believed it either. But this wasn’t happening to someone else. It was happening to her. Her father finally got up and started to leave the room and stopped and turned. Their eyes met. He was about to speak, and she wanted him to. To at least say everything was going to be OK. He did not. He stopped before the words escaped him. He shook his head and walked out. That crushed her. She looked to her mother. But she was in no condition to speak anything of encouragement. She just sobbed like someone had died and left the world too early. Mary should have felt all alone. She did not. She knew the truth and knew God was with her more now than ever before.
The donkey had had enough. He stopped. Mary almost lost her balance and went over the beast. If it had not been for everything being frozen into one shape she would have. Joe gave the rope a hard yank and miraculously the donkey’s legs started working again. He turned back to the city lights that lay just ahead of them.
“I will have you warm soon,” he yelled to Mary.
Mary pulled the frozen blanket from her head to see tents built up all around the city. They where everywhere, and as the couple entered the city gates there were people everywhere too. Hustling here and there and standing near fires to keep warm. Just then, another pain in her stomach rocked her body with pain. This was happening quiet a bit now and each time seemed to be worse. She knew it was anytime now but she would not say anything to Joe. He had too much on his plate already. He was now talking to a man beside an inn sign. But the man just kept shaking his head. Just then a few soldiers started coming to Mary. Joe saw them and quickly returned to Mary.
“No room,” he said under his breath and jerked the donkey to follow him away from the approaching soldiers. “Don’t worry, Mary,” he said as they went further into the city, “there are more inns.” And they traveled deeper, with more and more people crowding around the further they went. More and more families lining the streets with makeshift beds and tents. Mary was afraid for the first time during the trip as the worst pain yet caused her whole body to writhe and stiffen.
This was the last inn, and it didn’t look hopeful at first, but Joe was returning and he was smiling. So was the grubby man following him. The man led them down an alley and turned a corner. The stench of animals hit her and she almost vomited, but it passed almost as quickly as it hit her. The smell almost became pleasant immediately. There were sheep, cows, mules and other animals all seeming to stare as they passed. Then finally they stopped, and Joe helped her off the mule. As Joe laid her down on a pile of straw, she spoke for the first time in a long time.
“It’s time, Joe,” she whispered.
A look of shock flushed his face and then he asked, “What should I do?”
Mary and Joe looked at their perfect baby in the manger, with hay and straw and a ragged old piece of cloth keeping him warm. They noticed the animals had all come closer and were staring at the child. Then there was a commotion, and some shepherds came running toward them and dropped to their knees just as they got to the child. Then three men, who were dressed in the nicest and most expensive clothes they had ever seen. They laid gifts beside the manger. They all bowed down; even the animals seemed to be. A shepard then spoke.
“An angel told us not to be afraid, that it was bringing us good tidings of great joy, which is for all people. For today our Savior is born in the city, who is Christ the Lord and we will find him here in a manger. … Um, what is his name?”
Both Mary and Joe looked at each other and then to the shepard. “Jesus,” they said in unison.