Ordinary Glory – A Christmas short story

I wrote this short story around Christmas 2014. I thought it’d be fun to share! Partially inspired by the song Joseph’s Lullaby.

Also, today marks one year since I began this blog. Thanks for reading and for sticking around!

The night was ordinary, in nearly every sense of the word except the most important.

Irritation and exhaustion abounded in the town. Its boundaries overflowed with grumpy, weary strangers, none of whom wanted to be there. Perhaps most ordinary and universal of all was displeasure toward the ruler of the day, who was the reason they were all there to begin with.

All so busy, so caught up in their own worries, their own woes, and all they wanted was to sleep that night, if they couldn’t be at home.

Away, away from the crush of people that night, in the quiet of a hillside, a poor ordinary girl struggled through the ordinary pain of birthing a child. Her young husband knelt beside her, speaking in low, reassuring tones, stroking her hair that was smooth as the flowing waters of the River Jordan. A closer look would reveal the paleness of his face, the regret he felt at this being the place of childbirth. The helplessness he felt as he watched her in so much pain.

“Mary, my girl. You can do it. One more. Just one more.” He stroked her hair again, his hand tracing across her forehead, picking up glistening drops of sweat. He wished for cool cloths to alleviate some of her discomfort. But there was nothing he could do. Nothing he could offer. Nothing but himself.

Ah, most gracious God, he pleaded silently. May I be of use. Pull us through this.

Her sharp squeal reached his ears, and he winced. She gripped his hand. “Jo—Joseph—”

“I’m right here, Mary.” Her deep brown eyes met his for just a moment, and a tender feeling washed over him. “I’m always here,” he added, and silently thanked the Lord for not letting him disbelieve her and put her away. But guilt lingered within him as her trusting eyes shone, staring into his. Did he truly deserve her trust?

The contractions throbbed faster, stronger, and Mary’s cries pierced Joseph’s heart. She clung to him, sobbing, and it was all he could do to keep his voice calm.

But as the night slipped by, and dawn drew near, the long-awaited moment arrived at last. The child was born. His squalls filled the air, that cry of presence. “I am here,” it proclaimed, though no one but the angels listened.

Joseph took the child and removed his own outer cloak to wrap him with. Then he turned, and handed the baby to Mary. He settled back on his knees and watched his young wife and the child she’d borne.

An awe filled her face, and she stroked the tiny red cheek with a finger. Joseph had expected to feel odd, like a stranger intruding on this moment, since the child wasn’t his, but all of that seemed far away now. The child—nothing seemed out of the ordinary, just by looking at him. But the radiance he exuded was clearly evident in the air about the couple. Glory permeated the air, even with every cry of the baby’s newborn lungs.

Mary fed the baby, and a quiet once again descended upon the hillside. Joseph praised God in heaven, then dared a glance again at the tiny boy before him.

Is he the one who would save the world?

The nursing finished for now, Mary handed the baby to Joseph so she could rest for a bit. He walked to the mouth of the abandoned shepherds’ cave and rocked the boy in his arms, trying to soothe his cries.

“Look, little Jesus,” he whispered, lifting the child high. “Look, it’s the sunrise. The light has come again.”

A few tears pooled in the corner of his vision, and he blinked them away. He returned his gaze to the boy’s face, and smiled a bit. “The light has come,” he repeated, the realization of his words settling upon his spirit.

“The light is…right here. Right now.”

The baby looked back in Joseph’s eyes as he wriggled in the arms holding him. He gurgled softly, as if answering Joseph’s declaration.

Suddenly, a frantic noise of pounding footsoles interrupted Joseph’s thoughts. Several bedraggled shepherds skidded into view. When they caught notice of him, they stared at him. But no, Joseph realized. They weren’t staring at him. They stared at the child he cradled.

“It is the child,” one said in a hoarse, hushed voice. “The one the angels spoke of.” The shepherd looked up at Joseph. “This is he, isn’t it? It is the Savior. The Messiah.”

Joseph swallowed his questions, his shock, and hugged the boy closer. “It is the child,” he agreed, and hesitated. “Would…would you like to come inside?”

The shepherds followed Joseph into the cave. Mary startled, then Joseph knelt and placed her son in her arms. Her eyes softened.

The shepherds hung back, and Mary looked from them to the baby she held, then finally to Joseph. The expression in her eyes showed understanding, and she nodded to Joseph. So the shepherds stepped forward, and knelt before the child. And they worshipped.

Standing at the edge of the group, Joseph’s insecurities and uncertainties melted away. It was a strange feeling, and a shiver ran through him.

Mary laid the boy in an old cattle’s manager, atop the few remnant straws of hay. And Joseph humbly knelt with the poor shepherds, marvelling at the miracle that lay before him. He didn’t know what it all meant yet. But he could not deny the impossible power pulsing in this tiny bundle of human weakness before him.

The light had indeed come. In the most ordinary and extraordinary of ways.

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