” I am sorry Joseph,” Mary sighed as she watched the group head off down the road toward Jerusalem. “I’m afraid I am a burden to you and . . .”
“Nonsense,” Joseph interrupted. “Traveling alone will give us the time we need to talk. There are many things that we must consider before the birth of the child.” He gave his wife a smile as he finished securing the load to the donkey. “Besides, there are so many people traveling these days that it will seem as if we are part of a crowd anyway.”
Mary knew the dangers of walking the roads of Palestine without the protection of a larger group. But as she looked down the road toward Jerusalem and Bethlehem, she had to agree with her husband. The road was filled with one long line of people and animals. The dust kicked up by the feet of the travelers rose into the morning air like the smoke of a long serpentine fire stretching the length of Israel.
“You are right Joseph. God is gracious. I have often thought lately how He has brought this to pass in the fullness of time.” She rested her hand on her swollen belly. “He will watch over us.”
Joseph smiled again and reached out to brush a lock of hair from Mary’s face. He gazed into her eyes a moment and then turned to lead the donkey into the roadway. Mary walked beside him.
“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want” he began to quote his forefather. “He makes me to lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside the still waters.”
After several days of travel they made a night camp in the vicinity of Jerusalem. Their destination – Bethlehem – was only another seven miles. The trip had been hard on Mary, and Joseph was anxious to arrive in Bethlehem so that she might enjoy the comfort of one of his relatives’ home.
“Tomorrow we will be in Bethlehem.”
Joseph spoke over his shoulder as he unloaded the donkey. Mary was too tired to respond. He turned to look at her as she sat next to the fire he had kindled to cook the evening meal. He was worried about his wife and wondered if he should seek out the advice of a local midwife. He glanced around the camp area where a hundred other fires burned. How could he find a midwife in this mob? There were very few women amongst the travelers to begin with; what chance was there that one of them would be a midwife. Perhaps if he were to ask in Jerusalem . . .
Mary groaned as she struggled to her feet and began to draw together their supper. She looked up at her husband and recognizing his expression of concern tried to smile but was unexpectedly overtaken by a yawn. She covered her mouth and giggled.
“Oh Joseph – I must say that I will be glad when we arrive in Bethlehem.”
“Perhaps it was wrong of me to bring you on this trip” said Joseph as he stepped to the edge of the fire.
Mary shook her head. “We have discussed this my husband. We agreed that we cannot have the birth of this child surrounded by doubt and gossip.”
Joseph nodded as he crouched down to stir the fire. “We will be there tomorrow” he said. “It is only a few more miles.”
Yes, it was not much distance to Bethlehem, but when the morning dawned, Joseph could see that the walk to the city of David would be difficult and slow.
“Are you able to travel?” Joseph hovered over his wife in concern.
“I think so.” Occasional labor pains had begun and Mary was trying to honestly assess her ability to make the six or seven mile walk. “I will need to travel slowly, but I will do my best.”
The donkey was loaded and so the two of them began to slowly move down the dusty road to Bethlehem. As the day wore on Mary’s labor pains increased and their travel was slowed to a crawl. Night was falling before the dim outline of Bethlehem came into view.
(This is an excerpt from one of the stories found in, The Christmas Season: Stories For Each Week Of Advent And Christmas Eve , available at Amazon.com)