(In case you missed the first part of Jedidah’s story, the link opens in a new tab.)
The stable was quite snug when we finished if you discounted the cow and the donkey in the other half. But I was used to their smell and noise, and I supposed Joseph and Mary would grow accustomed to it, too.
Mary was nothing like I expected. I’d imagined her bold and flamboyant, like a loose woman, you know. But she was quiet and dignified. Not the most beautiful girl I’d ever seen, certainly not pretty enough to make Joseph lose his head the way he had, but she had a sweet countenance. When she learned she was to dwell in the stable, she laughed as if she thought it fun and thanked Mother sincerely.
My cousin Joseph was kind, as usual, and devoted to his bride to a degree that surprised me. They slipped into the routine of the household just like our other visitors. Joseph joined a distant cousin in his carpentry shop, and Mary, although large with child, helped with whatever light work she could. She took no offense whenever Mother or one of my aunts slighted her. They didn’t do it much, for she was Joseph’s wife, but you know how women can deliver subtle barbs without appearing to.
Four days after their arrival, I got a chance to work with Mary. We were carding wool in the courtyard, and I was trying to come up with some real conversation, when a frown passed over Mary’s face and she pressed a hand to her back.
“Are you well?” I asked.
“Oh, yes.” She took up her wool-combs again. “Mother told me to expect such pains in the days before the birth.”
“Are you…” I paused, trying to form my question as politely as possible. “I suppose you would have preferred the census came at another time so that you might give birth in your own home?”
She smiled an odd smile. “Actually, it is fitting that the child be born here, in the City of David.”
“Why?” Mother says I always ask nosy questions, and I guess she’s right, but Mary didn’t seem to mind.
“Because he is the Son of David.”
I didn’t see how he was more a son of David than my own brothers, if the child was indeed a boy. “But…all the men in this household are sons of David.”
She smiled that strange, almost secretive smile again, then dropped her gaze to her work. “Not quite the same way.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“You would not believe me if I told you, Jedidah.” She lifted her brown eyes to meet mine, and she didn’t look a bit angry or upset.
“Try me,” I dared her, speaking like my brothers.
“Very well.” She went right on working, not looking at me. “The child I carry is not Joseph’s nor any other man’s. I am with child through the Holy Spirit.”
My mouth fell open as my brain jumped to the only logical conclusion. “Mary, what are you saying?”
“I’m saying this child will be called the Son of God. He is our Messiah.”
I laid my hand on her busy ones. “But, Mary,” I said solemnly, “that cannot be.”
She looked me full in the face. “With God nothing will be impossible.”
What does a person say to that? You must admit it sounded preposterous. Not the “with God nothing will be impossible,” but the idea of her bearing the Messiah. And if you’re completely honest, it sounds impudent, saying that she hadn’t sinned—when there was every indication she had—but that God was responsible for her pregnancy.
Yet I couldn’t help liking Mary, and I wanted to believe her even though half of my mind insisted she must be telling shameless falsehoods. So I said nothing.
“You do not believe me,” she said. “No one does. Neither would I unless the angel had told me.”
“The angel!” I burst out. Angels only appeared to important prophets in days of old.
“But it doesn’t matter, Jedidah. I know the truth. Joseph knows. One day everyone will know that God has visited His people.” She rolled the bit of wool off her comb and pinched another piece from the fleece we worked on. “Come, let us talk no more of it. Tell me about all these new relatives of mine, that I may get them orderly in my mind.”
So I told her of my aunts and uncles and cousins, and where our visiting cousins belonged on the family tree. And I mulled over what she’d told me until my head felt numb.
Still I could not decide what to believe.
To be continued next week…