**This is part 5 of a series, beginning with Nativity Walk 1:
As our young couple and their favorite donkey ambles along, the landscape slopes down to the river, flattens, and the trees fade into more of a desert terrain. The lack of shade wasn’t a problem in the morning hours, but by noon the sun was too warm for comfort, and there was no relief from it.
“Why me, Joe? Why us? Not that I’m complaining – just amazed, humbled that He would choose us, of all the people in the world.”
“I wish I understood that. But I don’t. Adonai knows your heart better than I do, or even you do, though, and apparently He favors you as He favored Noah. Isn’t that what the angel Gabriel told you?”
“He said I ‘found favor with Adonai,’ but I just don’t understand how or why He should favor me over anyone else. There are plenty of girls who love the Lord in Israel.”
“What do you think He expects of us? How does a human act as father or mother to the Son of Adonai? Am I to correct Him? Discipline Him? You are certainly His mother, but how much does the Father want me to be His father? I trust Adonai but I’m unsure about the whole thing.”
Mary stopped in the heat of the afternoon desert sun, and with squinting eyes inquired, “What do you mean you are unsure?”
“Well put yourself in my sandals. . . how would you feel if your fiance’ was pregnant and you knew the child wasn’t yours?” Joseph gestures with the finger and thumb of the hand he’s not using to guide Mel: “I was this close to breaking it off when I found out you were pregnant.”
Mary’s eyes well up with this news, and she sits down on a rock with her back to Joseph so he wouldn’t see her tears. “You would leave me alone? I wondered why I didn’t hear from you for a while. . . What stopped you? Do you still want to leave?”
“Mary! Of course not! I’m here aren’t I? Why do you even question that four days into our trip? I love you! The same angel that visited you also came to me and explained, but how else would I believe such a thing?”
“Because I told you. You could have simply believed me.”
“You don’t understand.”
“No Joe. No I don’t.”
They traveled in uncomfortable silence now, hearing nothing but the sound of sand and gravel under their feet, and the occasional snort of Mel.
After some time, Mary looked over at Joseph, who turned his head just in time to avoid eye contact, which discouraged her more, and then when Joseph glanced at her, she tugged at her head covering to shield her eyes from his gaze. This continued for several more miles, until the shadows grew long on the path, and a breeze picked up.
“We better set up camp,” said Joseph, in a business-like tone.
Mary, who had been riding Mel for some time, climbs off and gives a sudden cry and gasp.
“What? Are you still upset about. . .”
“It hurts, Joe – no – I feel like it’s happening. He’s coming. Now.”
“Can you hold it?”
“It’s not like using the bathroom! I feel like my water is about to break. . .” Mary groans and sits on the ground, leaning back against a rock on a slope.
Joseph places a rock on Mel’s rope and kneels down with Mary to comfort her, pulling her hair back and holding her hand as she gasps for breath with the pain.
They both forget about their tiff in the moment, the pain begins to subside, and Mary’s breathing slows to normal, as does Joseph’s heart rate. He helps her up and walks her down to the river to soak her feet as he sets up camp.
Joseph, being a carpenter, finds driftwood and brush from the riverbank to construct a lean-to on a rise several feet above the water. Here he removes the stones from under the cover and makes them into a fire-ring with a modest fire going. After laying out some of the dates and bread from the Horowitz home, he calls out to Mary and she comes up, feeling much better now.
“I really felt like it was time,” she said. “Mom and Elizabeth told me that can happen, but I just didn’t know what it would feel like. That was awful.”
“Hopefully we will make it at least to Jerusalem, if not Bethlehem, before He comes,” says Joseph.
After a satisfying dinner, M & J lie down and look up at the starry sky above them, both considering again why the Creator of all this would choose them to parent His son. Neither speak though, partly out of fear of re-starting the conversation and partly out of shear awe. They drift off to sleep, keeping one another warm, with a smoldering fire in front of them.
Although they each wake up from time to time during the night, they do so at different times, and drift back to sleep quickly.
As the first beam of light breaks over the hills east of the Jordan, Joseph awakens to the sound of rushing water below. The river has risen a foot or so since the night before, apparently due to rain in the hills of Galilee. As this water has now made it down to the Samaria area, Joseph is pleased that he remembered to set up camp further up from the river, where the packs would not get wet. He takes Mel down to drink while Mary begins to stir, and then they share some figs and pack up.
“My back hurts. My ankles hurt. My right arm feels stiff,” states Mary.
“Me too. Hopefully we can find a better place tonight. You know I do trust you. You know that, right?”
“I do. I’m sorry, Joe. This is difficult, though. But I know you’re with me. And I know He is with us. We need to remember that He called us both into this.”
Joe agrees, and reassures Mary that as long as the three of them stay united, they will be fine. “A chord of three strands is not easily broken. I read that somewhere.”
“Give me your hand. He’s moving again.” Mary places Joseph’s hand in place to feel Jesus shift within her.
M & J and Mel, and Jesus, continue on toward the City of David and the first Christmas.
continued at NW6