Written November 13, 2006 by Cherry Bieber
The car sputtered and spit down the icy boulevard. Joseph knew they wouldn’t make it much further and cast a furtive glance toward Mary in the seat next to him. She sat quietly, but the one hand pressing on her swollen belly and the other holding tight to the door handle spoke volumes. He knew it wouldn’t be long. The biting wind drove the falling snow fast and heavy making travel perilous. The boulevard’s multitudes of signs were difficult to read and flashed the availability of everything except what Joseph and Mary needed most…directions to the nearest hospital. The car suddenly lurched, coughed spasmodically, and resolutely died on the spot. Joseph managed to steer into the curb before it stopped rolling.
“Mary, can you wait here for a minute while I try to get us some help? Will you be okay?” Joseph was nervous about leaving her alone, but he knew she wouldn’t be able to walk any distance. She nodded affirmatively and bit her lower lip as another contraction gripped her. Joseph got out of the car, locked the doors, and headed toward the entrance of the building nearest where the car had stalled.
Just as he reached the door, he heard Mary’s weakened voice. She had opened the car window and pleaded, “Joseph. There…there isn’t time. Please…” Joseph ran back to the car and opened the passenger door to help her out. She held onto him tightly as he led her against the storm toward the door where he had just a moment ago been about to enter. He glanced up and read the sign hanging above the door “Spafford Homeless Shelter.” He was painfully aware of the grime on the door and the stench of soured whiskey as they entered. He silently prayed the Lord would lead them to someone who could get them to the hospital before it was too late. Once inside, He helped Mary to the only available chair in the room. Were it not for the pain of her now steady contractions, Mary would have swooned from the odors of whiskey and smoke that mingled together creating air more conducive to chewing than breathing. There were about thirty people in the room. Some paced nervously and talked to themselves through puffs off their cigarettes while others huddled in chairs. None took any notice of Joseph and Mary.
Joseph walked toward a desk in the far corner behind which a man lounged with his feet resting on it. Above his head was a faded sign that read “Admittance.” Mary watched him anxiously. She couldn’t hear what Joseph was saying, but he pointed over to her and his hands moved quickly about as he explained their dilemma. Gripped with another contraction and the sudden urge to push, she cried out involuntarily, which drew the man’s attention to her. Joseph ran to her side and the man behind the desk jumped up seeming to suddenly understand the urgency of the situation. He was explaining to Joseph that all of the telephone lines were down, so an ambulance couldn’t be called. Joseph, fiercely desperate, looked at him and through gritted teeth said, “Mister, we need a room NOW!”
Motioning for them to follow, the man said, “I don’t have a bed in the house, but I will take you to a room you can use.”
Joseph’s heart sank when the man stopped in front of a scarred, filthy door bearing a crooked sign that read “laundry.” He was about to object to his wife giving birth in such filth when Mary, sensing his hesitance gasped, “Now, Joseph, now!” She spoke with such urgency that Joseph practically knocked the other man down getting into the room. There was just enough time to gather the dirty linen that was thrown about the twelve by eight-foot room and it was this upon which Mary lay down and gave birth minutes later.
Joseph had closed the door to the small room. He now looked into Mary’s shining eyes and together they basked in the warmth of the Presence of God. “Jesus.” Joseph spoke His Name with reverence and awe as he stroked the tiny brow. They were no longer aware of the filth and stench around them nor did they notice the mice scurrying back and forth. They were content and kept a deep, worship-filled silence for some time before they were aware of a commotion going on in the main entry.
Joseph stood and opened the door, but kept his foot to the back of it so as to block any unwanted visitors. The man from the front desk was standing in the hallway looking frightened and confused. He saw Joseph in the doorway and ran toward him. “Something isn’t right! The sky’s plum lit up! I think it’s the end of the world, man! The snow’s still falling like crazy, but there’s this star-like thing that’s so bright you can hardly look at it! It has something like a sword coming out of it pointing right down on top of our building! Maybe it’s aliens! Come see for yourself!” He urged Joseph to come with him, but Joseph wasn’t about to leave Mary and Jesus alone. While the man looked at Joseph, his eyes grew suddenly wide with terror and his mouth dropped open. Joseph closed the door and went back to Mary’s side. Through the door they could hear the man talking excitedly to someone in the hallway. “Did you see that? There was a strange halo of light around that man, I swear! You saw it too? What’s going on around here!? Who are those people!?”
About ten minutes later, there was a light tap. Joseph opened the door and saw a small, elderly woman with a basket in her hand. “Sir,” the woman began looking down at her feet, “I…I brought some food for you and the missus. Might I look at the babe?” Joseph opened the door and placing a gentle arm around her frail shoulders led her over to where Mary lay holding Jesus.
The old woman dropped to her knees weeping and said “Praise be unto our God! He’s come at last!”
The room was soon as full of people as its walls could endure. The smell of alcohol and cigarettes was heavier than ever, but no one noticed. The eyes of all were full of wonder and joy. Tears flowed freely from eyes set deep in hardened faces that had never known tender emotion. People from all walks of life came to see the miracle. Some came on foot through the driving snow and some in cars and busses, but all kept their eyes on the shining star for guidance. Many came bearing gifts having been foretold in dreams and visions that the Messiah had come.
The people began linking hand to hand giving no distinction to status or race. The wind grew calm and the snow fell reverently as they wept and praised God together for they knew the Salvation of all had come at last.