Just call me Joe, okay? I had mixed feelings about going to Bethlehem for the census. I mean, I was proud to be a part of David’s family. Who wouldn’t be? But I was irritated with the so-called government for their money-grubbing ways. Were they really counting me or the little bit of money they could get out of me? Another worrisome thing was my betrothed’s pregnancy. A long trip walking and riding old Shag could not have been a good thing for her at that late point. She never complained, though, sweet girl that she is.
She had told me, of course, about the angelic visitation. All kinds of supernatural events were happening in her family. This one, though, was huge. She had found favor with Almighty God Himself and would be the means by which he would take on flesh and dwell among us. That was a weighty responsibility for me, but nothing compared to the task before her. I thought to myself more than once, if you are going to be a stepfather, might as well make it of God’s Son!
It was quite cold for some of our trip, the dead of winter, but once we came into the region of Bethlehem, the weather cleared and the air warmed up. From two miles out we could hear the babble of crowds arriving in the region. At a mile out, people were putting up yurts and other shelters. Beasts of burden and children were moiling all over the road. One hospitable family offered us a place in their newly constructed A-Frame shelter made of sticks and brown palm leaves. I told the gentleman about Mary’s pregnancy and that we wanted to get closer into town to an Inn so she could be comfortable. He understood, but gave us a couple of hunks of fresh bread, some wine and some broiled goat meat for the road. It was good but the wine was more like vinegar. You couldn’t drink it without making a face.
Anyway, the closer to town we got, the louder the din of humanity and the stronger the smell of animal droppings and human perspiration. There was a line at the first inn we came to, so we walked on to the next one. I left Mary with Shag and the pack donkey and went into the lobby (if that is what you could call it). A sweet-faced man frowned at me, but his eyes were full of compassion. “No vacancy,” he said mechanically.
“Sir, my wife is expecting and we really need a place to stay. You have nothing?”
“Pregnant, huh? Well, let me see. I have slept out in the tack room before when the wife was put out with me. It ain’t terrible if you can stand the smell and the bellowing and the braying. I can let you have that for half of what a room in the inn would cost you.”
“Will you board my animals, two donkeys?”
“Yes, that is part of the deal. They will be right there with you.”
So, we did stay in the tack room and we got there just in time. Jesus came on the scene in the dead of night. Mary did so well. She was very brave. He was her firstborn, you know. Then more supernatural things started happening. Some shepherds found us after having been told by angels that the Savior would be found wrapped in cloths and laying in a manger. Peace on earth!