This is the final segment of the story told by Judith, the midwife who helped Mary, bringing Jesus into this world.
It has a link with last year’s Christmas story, The Shepherd Left Behind. That tale is actually a little book, available on Amazon in digital, paperback, or audiobook form. The audiobook is narrated by Charles Kahlenberg.
Comments on this small fable are welcomed.
After the shepherds were gone, the only sounds in the stable were those the animals made as they snuffled and grunted.
Mary was drowsing, recovering her strength, with the baby boy held close to her breast.
In the yellow, flickering light of a single olive oil lamp, Joseph sat in the hay beside his wife, his gaze locked on her and the infant. For him, sleep was still far away.
Susanna returned with the tea she’d brewed according to Judith’s instructions.
“Shhh. Wrap the pot in some cloths to keep it warm. The young mother is resting, as she needs to do. When she awakens, she’ll have her tea. Now, where’s our tea and food? I’m hungry, even though the birthing went so easily,” Judith said.
“Since everything is so peaceful here, let’s go to our home, have our breakfast and return at dawn. I think the mother and child will be safe with Joseph, until we return,” Susanna said.
Judith offered food and tea to Joseph. He accepted them, smiling, and resumed his vigil, all attention centered on Mary and the baby.
The midwife and her daughter went to their house, washed themselves and had a quick breakfast; dawn was just beginning to glimmer over the eastern mountains when Judith returned, alone, to the stable. Susanna would come, by midday to check and relieve her.
Judith was surprised to see a young boy in the stable. He was obviously accepted by the family and was dressed in robes common to shepherds. The young mother touched his hair as he knelt before her and the baby. There was something curious she noticed later. The boy seemed to be listening to a voice that only he could hear.
The midwife dismissed her curiosity about the boy as he retreated into the shadows of the stable. She focused on the mother and baby.
After Mary drank the herbal tea and ate a light breakfast, Judith suggested a brief nap after the baby had nursed. The new mother was peaceful, but weary and agreed.
Judith, spelled by Susanna for part of the time, stayed with Mary, in the stable, for another day. Making sure that the young woman and her son were doing well.
Judith was at home with Susanna the morning of the third day, when Sarah, the innkeeper’s daughter, came to the stable, bringing a man with her.
“Joseph, my father now has a room for you in the inn. As soon as it became vacant, he held it for you. I’ll help Mary and the baby as we move to the room, and my helper will assist you in moving your belongings. Of course, your donkey can stay here in the stable,” she said.
The family moved into a clean, spacious room in the inn and Susanna went home to give Judith the happy news.
“There is something quite unusual about the family and their baby. I’ve told you about the amazing way my knees and ankles have become pain-free and flexible. You, also, have felt the peace that envelops us in the presence of the infant. You watched the shepherds as they fell down in reverence.”
Susanna nodded, but said nothing. There was more.
“I haven’t told you everything.”
Judith paused as if making a decision. Then, speaking as if she was whispering in her daughter’s ear, she said.
“When Sarah was about to escort Joseph out of the stable to wait for the child’s delivery, he introduced himself to me and said, ‘…Please take good care of Mary. Her son, I have been told, will be an exceptional man.’”
Susanna’s eyes widened, but she silently leaned closer to her mother.
“He didn’t say ‘our son’, or ‘your son,’ and he stressed that the child would be ‘an exceptional man.’”
“Did he say who told him that?” Susanna said.
“No, and I didn’t ask. At the time I was so consumed by the imminent delivery of the child that, although the words seemed peculiar, I dismissed them. Then when my joints became free and strong again, I kept hearing Joseph’s words. They were almost singing in my head like the chorus of a song.”
“Do you want to go visit them in their room at the inn?” Susanna said.
“No. I think they need privacy, but let’s be sure to go to the temple when the boy is one month old, for his consecration. Unless Mary needs us before that time, we’ll see them then.”
Judith and Susanna went to the inn and followed Mary and Joseph as they took the boy—now named Jesus, after his circumcision—to the temple complex. The couple bought a pair of doves as an offering to the Lord, at the boy’s consecration.
Suddenly, those in attendance were surprised by the appearance of an elderly man, Simeon— known to be a righteous man— who held out his arms, silently asking Mary for permission to hold the baby.
Although amazed, she felt an assurance that no harm would come to her son and laid the infant into the old man’s arms.
Simeon’s prayer astounded everyone there. He had told the priests that God had told him that he would not die before seeing the Messiah.
“Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace.
according to thy word:
For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,
Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;
A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people
Then Simeon blessed them and said unto Mary his mother,
“Behold this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel;
(Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of
many hearts may be revealed.” (Luke 2:29-35, KJV)
Joseph and Mary were speechless, but since they had both been visited by angels about the birth of Jesus, they accepted this event in wonderment.
As Judith and Susanna watched and listened, their eyes met and the words Joseph had said sounded like a refrain from a hymn. “Please take good care of Mary. Her son, I have been told, will be an exceptional man.”
As the two women walked back to their home, their words were few, but their hearts and minds were filled with the knowledge that they had played a part in bringing the Messiah into this world.
Have a blessed, happy and safe Christmas Season