A Baby Boy …
If I just squeeze my eyes shut really really tight, maybe I can stop the sun from shining through the window. Maybe I can stay in bed just a few minutes more; it seems that I fell asleep just moments ago.
Normally, I’m the first one up in the house — up before the rooster, up before mother begins to make breakfast. But today is different because last night was different.
My father is an innkeeper. We live in the space above and rent out the rooms below. I’m accustomed to the hustle and bustle of families arriving and leaving. But last night a man knocked, no pounded on the front door long after the lights had been turned out.
He was loud, but not in an angry way, and he didn’t sound drunk. I couldn’t hear what the man was saying, but he sounded frightened. I heard Father’s voice too, and then I saw the two of them and a small woman walk across the road to our shed. Father lit a lamp, handed it to the man, and returned to our house.
I am a business man, but I am also responsible for the safety of my family. For that reason, I never open my door to anyone once the lamps have been snuffed out. But something in the sound of his voice, the desperation, led me to open the door. He was agitated, speaking quickly, and he begged for a place to stay. He and his wife had traveled many miles; they were bone tired and every other place they had stopped at was full.
I was about to tell him that, regrettably, all of our rooms were already taken. But then I noticed his wife lingering in the shadows — a young woman, not much older than my Hannah — fourteen, perhaps fifteen at the most? She had a sweet, timid smile, but her weariness was almost palpable. She leaned against the gatepost, holding onto it for support. She moaned and doubled over, gasping with pain. It was then that I saw that she was pregnant and, I assumed, in labor. I couldn’t turn them away.
I lit a lamp, led them to the shed across the road, and told them that that they could stay there for the night; no charge.
When my children were born, I was blessed to be surrounded by my aunts and sisters. They prayed with me, comforted me, massaged my back and wiped my brow. And when the time came, they supported me as my daughter, and years later, a son came forth.
That young girl, so far away from her home, is completely alone — no family, no friends, no neighbors. A Hebrew man, even the husband, may not be present at the birth of a child. And so I gathered cloths, a jug of water, and some oil, and hurried over to the shed.
I heard mother and father speaking to each other in whispered tones. Then mother got up and left — I saw her running across the road to the shed. What was going on? Why did she go over there, especially at such a late hour?
If only I could keep my eyes open.
And now, the sun is peaking through the window. There are so many thoughts swirling through my head. Are they real, or all part of a strange dream?
I can hear mother in the kitchen, washing the morning dishes. Oh no, I have missed breakfast!
“Hannah, there is bread on the shelf for you. Also, I have put together a basket of food for the people across the road. After you have eaten, take it over to them.”
It wasn’t a dream! Although I wasn’t really hungry, I grabbed a slab of mother’s wonderful bread, stuffed it in my mouth, and ran across the street with the basket, bread and figs and a jug of water.
“I’m Hannah and my father and mother live across the street. Mother asked me to bring this to you.” He thanked me and took the basket. “Please come in.”
In the shadows, against the far wall I could see the girl from last night, and in her arms was a very tiny baby. He was so cute — a squished little nose, tiny mouth, long dark eyelashes, and lots of black hair on his head. He reminded me of my baby brother Levi.
For a moment, that made me sad. But the girl was so happy and smiling and it was hard to not smile back and be happy with her.
I am shaking my head in disbelief. This morning I planned to check on the family in the shed, just to insure that they were safe and comfortable. As I left our house, I noticed that the gate was no longer sagging and the holes in the fence had been mended. I went across the road and found the stranger from last night working on repairing shelves in the shed. Obviously he had found my tools and was putting them to good use.
“Jacob, I hope you do not mind my doing these things. I am a carpenter, and this is the least I can do in repayment for your kindness to me and my wife…and our new son. “
I am ashamed to say that he has completed the work that I should have done for my family. But ever since the death of my son, I have found it difficult, if not impossible, to find motivation for even the simplest of tasks. He and I shook hands. I can honestly say that I have never before met such a person. Joseph is an honorable man.
Oh dear God, I do not know if I can bear this!
I am torn and troubled. I know that my God would want me to assist the sweet little girl in the shed across the road. She needs the help of a woman, a woman who has given birth. But seeing, smelling and touching that small baby of hers, that perfect child, it rends my heart. His tiny mouth, the flat little nose, the dark hair, they all remind me of Levi. Levi, my perfect baby boy, my gift to my husband who needs and deserves a descendant. My sweet baby boy who died in his sleep one year ago.
Mary is the nicest person I have ever met. Yes, she lets me hold the baby, but it’s more than that. She really talks with me, like I’m a real person. She braids my hair, we tell jokes, and we sing together. Being with her is like being with my mother back then, before Levi died.
Can I tell you a secret? When I’m alone in bed, going to sleep, I like to imagine that Mary is my older sister.
I have learned so much from Joseph. Obviously, he is an experienced carpenter and he has shown me many techniques I did not know before. But there is more, so much more. I have not always been a faithful man, a man who loves his God and respects His laws. I have been lazy ever since the death of my son. All of living just seemed so fruitless.
I don’t understand everything that Joseph has said to me, have never had dreams visited by angels, but I believe that he is a righteous man and his values are a mirror of what I could be, what I should be, for my family.
I found the courage to speak with Mary this morning. She says I should not expect Hannah to feel the same grief that I hold in my heart; it is unfair to resent her for being happy.
I told Mary that the death of a son is the greatest sorrow; she replied “the death of a son will be the greatest gift.”
When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
— Book of Matthew, Chapter 2
I have seen and heard things that I do not understand. Travelers from far away rode into the city today, seeking “he who would be King.” They entered the shed and knelt down in front of the baby.
This is beyond my comprehension.
They are leaving today and I don’t want them to go. It’s too soon! They are in such a hurry. I need to give them something, something to remember us by. I run back to my house and I find it — Levi’s rattle. “Yeshua should have this.” Mary kisses my cheek and hands the toy back to me. “No, you must hold onto this, it will be needed again.”
There are so many changes in the year since Joseph’s family left the security of our shed. I am no longer annoyed with Hannah and her little-girl ways.
I see that the grief I held onto at the loss of my son caused me to almost lose my daughter, to lose my husband, and to lose myself.
God has so richly blessed us. There is laughter once again in our house, there is love once again in our house, and in a few weeks another tiny little fist will hold that baby rattle.