Yesterday I introduced The Midwife’s Story as a new fable for Christmas. It could have happened and simply wasn’t recorded in any of the Gospels, even in the historian, Luke’s account of the Nativity. Today, we continue the story, told by the midwife, Judith.
Judith had dreaded, from the moment she’d heard there was a woman needing her help, crouching down to receive the newborn infant. Her knees and ankles had complained with every step, coming to the stable. Now, she was going to try to squat, flexing her knees and stressing her ankles as she faced the woman sitting on the stool.
Then something strange happened. She felt no pain, and the strength in her talented, gentle hands was multiplied. A glow of youthful flexibility surged across her.
The delivery was unusually simple and easy. When the boy—and it was a boy—was in her hands before she put him on his mother’s breast she felt a power emanating from him like nothing she had known and afterward, could never completely describe.
Peace flowed from the infant and his mother like a sweet fountain, enveloping and calming her to the core.
Susanna was going about, tidying the area in which they’d worked. The new mother had reclined on a bed of fresh hay, which had been covered with clean cloths, nursing the baby. When mother and daughter’s eyes met, they shifted in unison to Mary and the boy, then back to each other with expressions of wonder. Both smiled.
Sarah went to the inn to get Joseph and bring him to see the baby, that was now wrapped in clean cloths and lying on a bed of hay in the feeding trough. When she came back, Sarah came with them and brought more cloths for the infant and several blankets for the family and two for Judith and Susanna.
Judith watched closely as the man—who she thought was the father of the baby—came in. After all, he had correctly said that the infant would be a boy. There were fifty-percent odds that he would have guessed properly on that. But, he had said that he’d been told the child would be an “exceptional man.”
Told how and by whom?
Many men who were new fathers she’d watched, approached their newborns with a kind of awe, as if they were astonished that the child before them was theirs. This man, Joseph, was different.
He regarded the infant boy, with what appeared to Judith, to be reverence. The exact words he’d used were, “…Please take good care of Mary. Her son, I have been told, will be an exceptional man.”
Her son? Not our son? And, ‘an exceptional man.’
Judith was sitting on one of the wool blankets Sarah had brought. She’d spread it on the fresh hay the innkeeper had provided, and covered her shoulders with another blanket. Her knees and ankles were still flexible and felt strong. There was no pain.
“Mother, I’m going back to our house to brew some herbal tea for Mary and I’ll bring some food and tea for you, too,” Susanna said.
Judith nodded and then reminded her daughter which herbs she used in the tea she prepared for new mothers.
After Susanna left, Judith leaned back into the soft hay, wrapped in her blankets. The hour was late and she was weary. Sleep began to embrace her like another blanket.
Then there were voices and more light. When she sat up, looking toward the feeding trough where the infant lay, she saw four strangers. They were dressed in the rough clothes of shepherds. Even in the confines of the stable, the scent of the sheep they guarded rose from their robes.
Judith started to order them away from the newborn boy, but Joseph welcomed them, and Mary smiled, but said nothing as they drew close. The men were all talking at once, their voices rising as they told their story. Their eyes were gleaming as they approached the trough where the baby slept.
Then, they dropped to their knees.
After long minutes, they rose and turned to Mary bowing in humility. One of them assumed the role of spokesman. Judith listened to his story, watching the other shepherds, as well as Joseph and Mary.
This is the story he told.
“ We have been living out in the pastures with our flocks for weeks. We were sitting around our campfire when suddenly a creature of the most brilliant light appeared. We were terrified, it was like nothing we’d ever seen before,” he said.
Another shepherd, unable to contain his words spoke.
“But the creature spoke to us in a voice that calmed our fears. The angel—that’s what it must have been—told us not to be afraid. He said that a child had been born who would be our savior, The Messiah,” he said.
The first man picked up the narrative again.
“The angel said that, when we looked for the newborn Christ child, we would find him, wrapped in baby cloths and lying in a manger. We searched the stables until we came here. Now, we are blessed men to be in the presence of the Messiah.”
A third shepherd added more to the story.
“The angel had hardly finished telling us about the baby when an army of angels joined him. They were praising God and telling of peace on earth and good will to mankind,” he said.
The fourth shepherd had been silent. Now he could no longer hold his voice.
“We came here as quickly as we could, leaving our flocks with only a boy to guard them. We couldn’t wait. Now that we have seen the Savior, we will go back to the fields, telling everyone we meet what we have seen and heard,” he said.
The story will continue tomorrow. Come back, and please leave your comments on the story.