I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes. I arose and walked out of the small grotto where I, Mary and the new born baby had been sleeping. It was still dark, just before dawn, with the one bright star still shining above.
As I stood in the cold morning air, my thoughts returned to the events of the night.
After the long journey to Bethlehem for the census, we had finally found a place to rest. The inn keeper had grudgingly given us access to this lowly grotto where his animals fed and sought refuge from the wind and rain.
Shortly after we had settled into our meager surroundings, Mary went into labor. Fortunately, she had learned much from her cousin Elizabeth and the delivery went without any mishaps. I laughed to myself and thanked God for Elizabeth since, as a man, I was pretty useless in circumstances such as this.
Mary and the baby, exhausted from the delivery soon fell asleep, Mary on the grotto floor and the baby in a manger, wrapped in swaddling cloths with fresh straw to surround him.
Shortly after, I heard the sound of apprehensive voices and the shuffling steps of several men. As they approached the grotto, I could see a ragged band of lowly shepherds, some young and some old. By this time Mary was awake, but the baby was still asleep.
They apologized for bothering us so late and then told us an amazing story. They said that an angel, surrounded by a bright light, had appeared to them as they watched their flocks in the dark of the night. The angel said, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’
Then they said a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests.’ They knew they had to come and see this child.
They asked if they could see the baby. I looked at Mary, she smiled and said, ‘Yes, of course you can.’
They slowly approached the manger and looked down into it. A blessed silence settled into the grotto. Even the surrounding animals stopped their grazing to watch. Young and old, the shepherds stared in awe at our son. A few kneeled.
After a few minutes, they stood and backed slowly away. They thanked us for the honor of seeing our child and said they must return to their flocks. As they shuffled away we could hear their voices again… no longer apprehensive but joyful as they faded into the dark.
I looked at Mary and she smiled again and rested back upon the straw on the floor of the grotto and was soon asleep.
After recalling these events of the night, I went back to the manger and stared at this child.
As I looked at my son, I knew that he was more than my son. I remembered what the angel had said to Mary about how this baby would be conceived and born. And, I recalled how the angel had come to assure me that I, a simple carpenter, was to be the earthly father to this special child.
I walked back to the entrance of the grotto and again stood under the star that was shining over Bethlehem. It was too much for a simple man to understand. Yet, I have a peace in my heart as I love Mary and now I had a son to love as well.
What a night.