Joseph ran into the cave at the first cry of the newborn baby. He stopped in awe-filled wonder when he saw his beloved Mary sitting resting against the wall of the cave, the heavenly light playing gently across her exhausted but joy- filled face. In her arms she held her son, a boy, wrapped in strips of what looked like linen cloth. Miriam noticed his surprise and smiled. ‘My husband is a shepherd,’ she explained, ‘I’m afraid it was the only cloth I could find at such short notice. Congratulations,’ she whispered, as she patted his arm affectionately ‘you have a son!’
The full reality of her words hit him like a rock, ‘A son,’ he thought, ‘a son, not his son, but what did that matter, He was God’s son, and he, Joseph, would raise him as his own!’ As he gently took the sleeping child from Mary’s arm, a surge of joy and determination filled him. He would raise this boy, this beautiful God-given boy. He would teach him the ways of men, as surely as the boy would probably teach him the ways of God! His reflections were interrupted by the entrance of a young man, a shepherd by the look of him. For a moment Joseph thought that he had come to take the animals out for the day’s grazing, but the young man’s eyes and the eyes of the others who followed him looked only at the sleeping baby in his arms. ‘Is it true,’ asked Reuben softly, ‘is he really the Messiah?’ Joseph was unprepared for the question, he had only given thought to the delivery, not what would happen after. ‘Yes,’ answered Mary from her resting place, ‘and his father has already chosen a name for him.’ A meaningful look to her husband brought Joseph back from his growing realisation of the consequences of what was happening. ‘His name is Yeshua’, he declared, bringing him closer to the awe-filled shepherds, ‘Jesus, it means…’ Reuben finished his sentence for him, tears falling down his face as he gripped tightly to the two lambs tucked tightly over his shoulders,… ‘it means God saves his people!’
Gabriel wept too, the joy and promise of this unique moment in human history may have been missed by most of the sons of Adam, but not by this shepherd. The messenger realised that the unveiling of God’s presence among his treasured people would now be proclaimed beyond the streets and hillsides of Bethlehem as the shepherds rushed outside to awaken the people and to tell them everything that they had happened while they had slept. He watched as Joseph and Mary settled themselves to rest, even as the dawn was breaking, knowing that the joyful exhausted couple would get little rest over the coming days.
Just as their eyes were beginning to close, the light flowing into the cave was again blocked by the arrival of more visitors. Entering on their knees, their eastern clothing making them look more wise and regal than they felt, Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar gazed with wonder on the newborn baby. Their delight at seeing the star again as it led them straight to the cave, was nothing to the humbling joy that filled them as they looked upon the newborn King lying in a feeding trough.
‘My friends’, whispered Balthazar, ‘we have travelled far to see this child, and we have lost our way and found ourselves. Please accept these humble gifts as a token of fealty and servanthood. This child is the king we sought. This child will be the saving of many.’ Mary and Joseph watched in amazement as first a large piece of gold was placed in front of the manger. Melchior explained its origin. Then a large flask of frankincense from Caspar who explained his journey which began twenty months earlier on a hillside above his father’s village. Finally Balthazar went out of the cave, and returned with a large stone jar filled with thick resin. He had managed to retrieve one of his many jars from Herod’s household as they had scurried away. Mary watched and listened in great awe, treasuring all these things in her heart!