The Manger Cradled the King
Mary leaned on the doorframe, silently watching her husband work. She watched his hands, so skillful and steady, almost gentle as they worked with the wood. She also noticed the strength of his back and arms underneath his simple woven tunic. How can I help but love him? He’s taken me as his own. Her hand went protectively to the unborn child she carried. He’s taken both of us as his own.
He must have sensed her admiring him. “Mary? Is it already time for lunch?”
She smiled. “Your stomach usually alerts you.”
He wiped sawdust from his hands. “I could use a break.”
Her eyes traveled to the back of the small room. “I see you finished the yoke for Levi. What are you working on now?”
He blushed and she felt startled. “What? Are you embarrassed to tell me?”
He crossed to her and lifted her chin. “No, I just wanted it to be a surprise.”
Her eyes grew wide. “For the baby?”
“Yes.” He led her to the lovingly sanded wood and held it up for her to inspect.
She touched it carefully. “It’s smooth and—beautiful.”
“It will be the most wonderful cradle in all of Nazareth—in all of Israel.”
She clapped her hands and bounced up and down on her tippy-toes. “In all the
world! Everyone will come and see the cradle you have made.”
He placed his hands on her shoulders. “No. Everyone will come to see the
baby in the cradle.”
“Yes, the baby—” She looked up at him in fear, in wonder, in anticipation.
“Joseph, why me, why us?”
He wrapped his arms around her and held her. “Only Yahweh knows and that is
* * * * *
Mary fought back the tears when she saw the discouragement in Joseph’s eyes as he returned to her. “No room?”
He shook his head and grabbed hold of the rope, tugging their weary donkey forward. “Caesar has no concern for us and the fact that we have no place to sleep tonight. His greed, wanting to make sure no one fails to pay him tribute, is the reason we had to make this difficult journey.”
She watched his hunched shoulders and wanted to comfort him, to encourage him. “At least we’re together.”
He stopped and came to her, stroking her cheek. “How are you feeling?”
“Good. I’m young and strong as an ox and—”
The color drained from his face. “Now? So soon?”
She swallowed and nodded. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t worry.” He took hold of the rope, yanked hard, and urged the donkey. “Come on.” He glanced back at her. “I’ll find us a place, I promise.”
* * * * *
There was more work and pain and blood then she had expected. Seeing others give birth did little to prepare her for her own experience. But in an instant all of that had been replaced by overwhelming love and wonder as Joseph laid the baby in her arms. She looked down at him and then up into her husband’s eyes. “He’s perfect.”
Joseph wiped his eyes with the back of his hand. “Yes, he is—more perfect than any baby ever born.”
He kissed her forehead. “I’m so proud of you.” When the baby cried he pulled back. “What’s wrong?”
She giggled. “I don’t know, maybe he’s hungry.”
“Then you should feed him, right?”
As the newborn nursed, Joseph knelt at the manger to prepared his bed. “Ouch.” He sucked his finger.
Joseph nodded. They looked into each other’s eyes, mourning the tiny hand-woven blanket and hand carved cradle so tenderly prepared for this moment. He went to her, grasping her hand. He whispered, “He is here with us, that’s all that matters.”
* * * * *
When life doesn’t turn out as you planned, when dreams don’t materialize, when the journey is harder than you’ve ever imagined, just remember, Jesus is here with us, and that’s all that matters.