Summary: A Christmas sermon
An unusually hot wind drove sand like needles into the faces of two dusty travelers as they made their way over yet another knoll.
As his robe slapped viciously about his ankles, the man peered out from beneath his mantle at the small village that had been their destination. From this distance, and through the blanket of blowing dust and dried sage, it appeared as though the place was deserted.
But he knew that as he drew closer he would see plenty of activity; probably more than he wished to see.
He knew that everyone alive who had been born in Bethlehem, with few exceptions, would be crowding into the hamlet for the census being imposed by Augustus.
It was an inopportune time of the year for anyone to have to travel any distance, but even more-so for the radiant young woman who sat on the donkey next to him.
He turned and, squinting against the blowing sand, he looked into her face. Mary wasn’t one to complain regardless of the circumstances; and knowing this about the one he loved so much, he tried to detect, in her expression, the way her eyes met his, the way her mouth was set, any little sign of discomfort. But it wasn’t there.
Though the journey had been hot and slow, and although she was in the ninth month of her pregnancy and waiting to deliver any day, she only smiled back down at him and patted the tanned, rugged hand that rested on the donkey’s flank.
Joseph had wrestled inside himself during the days of travel, over the strange events of the past year, and the changes that the two of them had undergone. There were times that something tugging at his heart told him he should be angry and feel as though his manhood had been violated and mocked. But he would then remind himself that he had enjoyed a closer, deeper relationship to his God than ever in his entire life, in just these nine months.
“On the other hand,”, said that nagging-something, “can you be sure the angel was not a dream? A nightmare? Can you be sure you haven’t been terribly deceived?”
But it only took a glance at Mary as she stooped to wash a pan, or cooled her neck with a wet rag, and he knew deep in his heart that if God chose any woman on earth to be the mother of His Messiah, it would be Mary. There wasn’t a mean or deceptive seed in her. “She doesn’t even know how to lie”, he’d think to himself, and that nagging-something would go away and leave him at peace.
Over the days of journey, the nagging-something had grown steadily weaker. Now, standing across a sheep strewn valley from the little town and looking at her smile, he knew that the ‘something’ was gone for good. All doubts fled at that moment, and as he began his descent down the hillside holding the animal’s reins, he was careful to hide from her the tear that rolled down his cheek, as joy flooded his heart.
“In just a matter of days, perhaps hours” he thought, “her warm smile will vanish under a grimace of pain and labor. My hands will tremble, Mary will cry out in a mixture of agony and gladness and suddenly, in fulfillment of all that the prophets declared, light will shine in the darkness.”