A Christmas Story
by A. D. Barncord Doerr
Copyright © 1998
(An anonymous story found in Especially for Mormons, Vol. 1.
Altered and text added from Luke by Amanda D. Doerr.)
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed...
And all went to be taxed, everyone into his own city.
And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house of David;)
To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child...
And so it came to pass that early on a mild morning, that their hearts woke now to the delights of the journey and the new sweet intimacy that enfolded them. When the sun rose over a sky of pink and gold, Mary laughed with pleasure.
"It is more beautiful than I have words to say," she murmured. And at night through all the darkness, Joseph kept watch beside his beloved.
When they entered Judea on the third day, their voices held a note of reverence. It was hallowed country over which they moved. At Shiloh, Mary caught Joseph's arm. "This is the place where Hannah prayed to the Lord for a son. I think I konw what she felt. Sometimes when I think of the child that is to be born, I feel a sword piercing my own heart, also. It seems to come from the far, far years..."
Joseph did not turn to look at her. but it was when they were in the shadow of mishap's lonely height that a sound from Mary made Joseph turned quickly to her.
"What is it?" he begged. "Mary, tell me."
When she raised her head, even her lips were drained white. "How far is it yet to Bethlehem? Can we reach there tonight?"
"By steady going; if we make no stops, we can get there late this evening, instead of tomorrow, but Mary you can go no farther. In the next town we shall and stay until..."
But Mary shook her head. "I must go on," she said softly. "A few more miles at the end of so many can surely be borne. Support me with your arm, Joseph, and let us not delay."
And so the miles began once more with a man's love and a woman's faith to conquer them.
Sometimes, through the darkness, Joseph heard a stifled moan of pain, then his clasp tightened. Ridge after ridge, valley after valley, and then at last the hill to which their journey was bring them. Bethlehem, with its sweeping terraces and its hanging vines. It was at this last steep ascent that Mary again cried out, for the little animal stumbled on the slippery grey limestone and all but fell.
"It's not safe to ride her at times," Joseph spoke anxiously. "I have often heard so.
Mary, suddenly with pain and fear, "What shall I do? I am so wretched, I can't walk, Joseph." But Joseph was already placing his knapsack on the back of the donkey. Then he lifted Mary into his arms.
"I shall carry you," he said. Mary was too weak to protest. Her hand crept around his neck. Slowly, carefully, they moved on and up, the little animal following behind. Joseph's great muscles strained at the task. He set his teeth and prayed for Mary's life.
And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
It had been Joseph's innocent untraveled thought that, of course, the house of his cousin Matthieas, would give them shelter. It stood only a square away from the city gate, the watchman told him. So, with a great relief, he made his way there and called. It was only a few minutes until Matthieas emerged with a light. He was suprised and delighted to see his kinsman, but shook his head sorrowfully over his failure to take him in.
"You don't seem to realize, Joseph, that Bethlehem is full. You and I are but two out of the thousands that trace their linage back to David. My house is packed to the farthest corner. And you wife..."
"She must have shelter and privacy. Her need is desperate."
Matthieas turned his light toward the drooping figure of Mary again, sitting on the donkey. His face was all pity as he turned to Joseph. "Come," he said, "I will go with you and see that you are housed. At least I know the city."
The innkeeper, coming out to the courtyard, merely looked at the travelers and waved brusquely aside. "No room," he shouted and turned to re-entered the door. But Joseph was quicker. His huge bulk barred the way. "I must have shelter," he said grimly, "and I must have it here. I an a peaceful man, but desperate needs require desperate actions. Where can I take my wife?"
Joseph's great hands shook him with quick frenzy. The innkeeper tried to free himself, glaring angrily into Joseph's face. "I know of no place but the stable," he said.
"The stable! How dare you insult her so! she must have..." But another voice broke in. It was the voice of Mary. And the gentle tones seemed at once to still the striving men.
"I think I should like the stable, Joseph. It will be quiet there. The oxen will be asleep. And with a little blanket on the clean hay, we can make a cradle in the manger."
The innkeeper, seeing her for the first time, looked at Mary's face, patient and piteous in her pain, shining white and spent between the waves of golden hair. He bowed before her.
"It is true as I, my lady, there is no room in the inn; but I shall give you all the comfort I can, and may God be with you."
"He is with me," Mary answered.
And so, laden with the pallet and blankets which the innkeeper brought out to him and carrying one of the lanterns, Jospeh led the little donkey through the courtyard and onto where the stable awaited them.
And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over the flock at night.
And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them and the glory of the Lord shone around them: and they were sore afraid.
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto to you is born this day in the city of David a saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
And this shall be a sign unto; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."
"Listen, Joseph, do you not hear it? There is music ringing through the air. Angel voices, unearthly sweet, drifting down from the stars. 'Glory, glory', they are singing. 'Glory to God in the Highest.' Oh, Joseph, do you not hear it?"
"I hear the voice of an angel," he said gently.
"But look," Mary cried, trembling. "Look, there to the south, where the sky seems to brood over the hills. I can see the angels in the path of light. Winging, singing . . . Oh, the beauty and the radience of it all! You do see them, don't you Joseph? You must see the heavenly wonder of it."
"I see the face . . . of an angel," Joseph said again softly.
And Mary turned toward him, "Oh, you have heard the music. You have seen the angels. Then at last, you believe all that I have told you. Tell me you believe."
There was no sound for a long moment. No sound but their heartbeats in the darkness. And Joseph found words.
"I know," he said slowly, his voice breaking with love. "I know that the son born of you is holy."
And with that Mary sighed with contentment. "He is beautiful, isn't he?"
"Yes, he is." And with misty eyes, Joseph gently kissed his wife.
And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, "Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is to come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us."
And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning the child.
And all that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the sheperds.
But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.