Many of us have heard the Nativity Story over and over again, to where we’ve lost the awe and wonder, along with the emotional roller coaster, of those who witnessed the miraculous birth. This fictionalized account is set in a modern setting to help us rediscover the dynamics of the actual, historical event.
Joe squeezed a few extra drops of gas into the tank and then hooked the nozzle into its slot. After sliding into the driver’s seat, he snatched up his to-do list and mentally checked off the items.
Fill windshield washer, check the oil, get gas — done. Next to-do chore, the grocery store. Joe started the car and pulled onto the street. He felt himself bouncing between frustration and despair.
Why does that new hometown tax have to be paid in person? And in the city of our birth. Total nonsense! Why can’t we pay online or send a check? But no, that would be too easy. How do politicians come up such hare-brained schemes? And why now? The baby’s due any day.
A few minutes later he pulled into the Great Eats Grocery parking lot. Before getting out of the car, he unsheathed his phone and pulled up his list of numbers for every bed and breakfast, hotel, and motel within one hundred miles of Bethlehem.
How can I tell Mary we don’t have a hotel room? Maybe some place will have a cancellation. Yeah, right. Not with everyone in the country traveling on the same day.
Ten minutes later he shoved the phone back into its holder. No vacancies anywhere. He sighed, unbuckled his seatbelt and strode into Great Eats Grocery.
A short time later Joe pulled into the apartment’s parking lot and glanced at the car’s clock, 7:52 AM. Time is flying and we need to be on the road no later than nine.
Getting out of the car he saw his wife waddling out to meet him. Joe cringed. Mary shouldn’t be traveling. Stupid tax law! What if the baby comes while we’re away?
“Joey, are you okay?”
He jerked out of his thoughts and smiled at Mary. “My to-do list is finished. How are you coming?”
“The suitcases are all packed and sitting by the front door. Give me the groceries and I’ll start making the sandwiches.”
Joe lifted the two bags of groceries off the front seat. “I’ll carry in the food then bring out the suitcases.”
They stepped into the building and walked to their apartment. Joe set the grocery bags on the kitchen counter.
Mary kissed him on the cheek. “Thanks honey.”
Joe grinned. “Don’t forget to put plenty of peanut butter and dill pickles on my sandwiches.”
“Oh yuk! How you can eat that stuff on a turkey sandwich is beyond me.”
He shrugged. “It tastes good.”
Joe picked up the suitcases, hurried to the car and set the suitcases by the trunk.
Jogging fast, he headed for their storage cage in the apartment’s basement. He punched in the security code to open the lock and collected an armload of camping gear. After rushing to the car, he plopped the gear next to the suitcases.
What will Mary think when she learns our hotel room is only the tent? But camping is better than sleeping in the car. Joe grimaced. But not much better for Mary.
He ran back to storage and grabbed their 4-person dome tent along with two inflatable sleeping pads and again raced to the car.
Working fast, he popped open the trunk and pulled out the suitcases. Next he spread the camping gear across the floor of the trunk, then covered it all with an old blanket. He laid the suitcases on top of the blanket and stood back to admire his handiwork. That looks good. Mary won’t know about the tent, at least for a while.
Then his shoulders slumped. I don’t like keeping secrets from Mary…but don’t want her to worry, either. Maybe we will find a place to stay.
Joe shut the trunk and leaned against the car, looking heavenward. God, I don’t understand this. Mary’s expecting Your son any day. I tried to reserve a hotel weeks ago, but couldn’t. A tent is no place for Mary…right?
Late in the afternoon, Joe and Mary reached the outlying suburbs of Bethlehem and joined the double line of bumper-to-bumper traffic crawling toward the city.
“Wonder where everyone’s staying tonight,” Joe mumbled under his breath.
“What did you say, Joey?”
“Oh…ahh…I was just wondering where all these folks were staying tonight.”
Mary leaned back and rubbed her belly. “How much further to our hotel?”
Joe kept his eyes on the road and said nothing.
“Joey, where are we staying tonight?”
“We do have a room, don’t we?”
Joe blew out his breath. “Sleeping bags are in the trunk, along with the tent and some camping gear. I packed them because…because I couldn’t find us a place to stay.”
Mary opened her mouth as if to say something, but then shut it tight and massaged her round belly. She let out a low moan.
“You okay, honey? Need another potty break?”
Mary shook her head then leaned back and shut her eyes.
Three hours later Joe trudged into Baird’s Bed and Breakfast on the outskirts of town. Heart pounding, he asked to speak with the manager.
“Do you have any—”
“We’re full, no vacancies.”
“But my wife’s expecting a baby soon and—”
“We have no rooms, I’m sorry.”
“I have a tent in my car. lf we could—”
“There’s the Lazy T Campground across town.”
“Already checked with them. Their overflow area has overflowed. Could we set up our tent in your yard? Please, sir, we need a place to stay. Please?”
“Your wife’s expecting, you say?”
Joe nodded. “The baby’s due any day.”
“Any day, hmm…Okay, set up the tent in the grassy area out back. You can use the lobby restroom to wash up. We keep it clean and expect you to do the same.”
Fifteen minutes later, Joe had the tent set up and the sleeping pads and bags rolled out.
He helped Mary out of the car and into the tent. “It’s not the best accommodations but at least you can lay down.” His stomach growled. “I could eat another sandwich. Are you hungry?”
Mary shook her head. “Joey, the baby…I’ve been having contractions off and on all day. But for the last hour they’ve been coming every two or three minutes.”
She tensed and groaned as a yellowish fluid gushed onto her sleeping bag. She groaned again and gasped. “The… baby’s…coming. You’ll…have to…deliver him.”
A torrent of panic surged through Joe. “Me?”
“Daisy…had puppies…you watched.”
“Daisy! But I didn’t deliver her puppies and I can’t deliver…the baby can’t come yet!”
Mary moaned as another contraction gripped her. “Jo-ey, the baby!” The top of a head appeared. Mary gasped and groaned.
Joe reached down and cradled the little head in his own hands and soon found himself holding a screaming baby boy. He handed the baby to Mary.
“Joey, get a towel out of the green suitcase to wrap around our little guy. I packed several just in case.” She gazed at her newborn son. “Hello sweet Jesus. Welcome to this world.” The baby’s tiny hand wrapped around her finger.
Joe handed Mary the towel. “The little guy’s all…all gooey.”
Mary smiled. “Like every newborn, he needs a bath.”
“I packed our camping bucket. Be right back.” Joe grabbed the bucket along with a pan from their camp cook set and headed to the lobby’s restroom. He filled the pan with warm water from the bathroom sink and poured it into the bucket. Repeating this several times, he filled the bucket almost to the brim and carried it to Mary.
Mary laid Jesus on Joe’s sleeping bag. “Ready for your first bath, little guy? Oh Joey, I need another towel, and the little red suitcase. It’s packed with baby items.”
Joe stared at Mary. “Towels, baby stuff? It’s like you knew Jesus would be born here.”
Mary smiled. “I did know, at least I was quite sure.”
“How? Mother’s instinct?”
“No, from the writings of our prophet, Micah. And after I bathe Jesus, I’ll need another bucket of warm water for my bath. Does this place have a laundromat? My sleeping bag is unusable until it’s washed.”