by Joseph Bayly IV
It’s cold and drafty. She’s cold. Why couldn’t the boy have been born while we were still in Nazareth, instead of here, alone, no one to help. Only me, and I’ve never delivered a baby.
Fear not, Joseph.
I do believe God. I take him at his word. A baby. But not mine.
Take unto thee Mary.
Mary—how I love her. I love you, Mary. Here. Hold my hand. I’ll see that nothing goes wrong. No, God will see to that, he’ll take care of you. He’s got to—it’s his baby. Don’t be afraid.
She shall bring forth a son.
He’ll work beside me, help me smooth a yoke, build a house. I’ll get him a little saw, the boy and I will work together...
Call his name Jesus.
I like that name: Jesus, Joshua—he brought our people to this land. He was a leader, Joshua was. He was God’s man.
He shall save his people.
It’s beyond me. I’m just a carpenter, not a rabbi. How can he save, even after he comes of age? When Messiah comes…
…from their sins.
Things are so bad. People are so bad, not just the Romans, either. For that matter, I’m bad—I need a Savior. Mary, I’m here. Don’t be afraid—cry out, if you feel like it.
God with us, Mary. God’s with us, and here’s the baby. Listen to him cry. Where did you put the bands to wrap him in? I love you, Mary. And I love your son—our son.
It’s a night for lambing, a dark one. No moon or stars. It’s good we built this fire. —What’s that?
Don’t be afraid? When you see an angel, big as life? And hear its voice rock the whole countryside? I’m glad this hole is here.
For, behold, I bring good tidings of great joy.
I wish it’d go away. Or lower its voice. ‘Great joy’ sounds good, though. I could sure use some. Do you suppose that’s a real, honest-to-goodness angel?
…which shall be to all people.
Impossible. How can the same news be good for the Roman swine and for us? The angel must be Jewish, like God. It probably means ‘to all Jews.’
For unto you is born this day in the City of David…
In Bethlehem? Little Bethlehem, where I was born? Impossible. Maybe Jerusalem, but not Bethlehem.
…a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.
The Messiah, born tonight, born in Bethlehem? We’ve waited for centuries, and no Messiah. Tonight’s a night for a lamb to be born, not a Messiah.
And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
The Messiah born in a stable? A baby all wrapped up? Impossible. A lamb in a stable, a king in a palace. —Hey, look at that, a whole army of angels. More than a Roman legion. And what a bright light!
Glory to God in the highest…
They must be able to hear that the whole way to Bethlehem.
…on earth peace, good will toward men.
Peace, that’s great. Especially if it means the Romans will leave our country. But ‘good will toward men’? They must mean toward Jews, if they’re really speaking for God. —Hey, where did they go? It’s dark again. They’re gone. Did you see that? Did you hear what they said? Wait till I tell the wife about this. Let’s go to Bethlehem and see what they were talking about. Maybe we’ll find the Messiah, maybe we’ll only find a lamb. In a stable, mind you.
Look at the newborn. A perfect little thing, like a lamb without blemish.
A body I’ve prepared for you
betrothed to Joseph
You who have been with me
from everlasting days
who with me made all things
including earth and man
tonight become a creature vulnerable
baby most helpless.
The swirling cloud
takes you to her
through darkest night.
I send an angel army to protect
proclaim your birth.
and spend a few days’ light
then darkest noon
and you’ll return.
I’ll have the dust of earth
at my right hand
Tonight I joy
that you delight to do my will
take God-sized step
to earth and womb
My Son, Farewell.
I hear a baby’s cry.
Wretched place to be delivered. Birthplace of oxen, of asses, of vermin. Pain. Travail in a stable.
Fear not, Mary.
Stench of manure. Straw, pungent, acrid. Birth pangs in a stable.
For thou hast found favor with God.
Pain. My first baby. A boy. Born in a stable, born away from home. Nine months. Nine long months.
Thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son.
A son. My son. Strange thought—not his. Pain. My son, my Savior. Our Savior.
Thou shalt call his name Jesus.
Jesus. Jesus. Pain. He shall lead our people into the Promised Land. Beautiful name. Jesus, my first baby. A boy.
He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest.
God’s Son in a stable? Birthplace of oxen, birthplace of vermin? Pain, what pain. Son of the highest.
The Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father, David.
Palaces, not stables, for kings. Pain. Pain. Stables for asses, for sheep. For a little lamb.
Of his kingdom there shall be no end.
David’s kingdom ended. Every kingdom ends. Pain. His kingdom… Pain. It will never end. Never. Pain. Greater than King David. Pain. Pain. My baby. My Savior. Pain. Pain. Pain. Joseph, Joseph.
My baby. Those fingers, so tiny. Round little arms and legs. My baby.
That holy thing that is born of thee…
Cover him up. Wind it tight. Drafty old stable. Stars through the roof. Smelly manger, hard and cold.
He shall be called the Son of God.
Those hands, those tiny, perfect little hands. They made the stars, the earth. God’s Son, my Savior, my baby. It’s cold tonight. Cover the hands, too.
Joseph T. Bayly