“Joseph, since we’re so close, I’d like to have the Dedication to the Lord Ceremony in Jerusalem.” Mary placed a bucket under the cow and started to milk it.
“I was thinking the same thing, but our donkey is lame and will never make the trip.” Joseph shoveled the manure and dirty straw out of the donkey’s stall and into a wheelbarrow. “Besides, we’re running out of money. I don’t think we have enough to buy a new donkey let alone go to Jerusalem and then on to Nazareth.”
“I could ask Zechariah to lend us one of their animals for the trip to Jerusalem. Elizabeth has been more of an aunt to me than a cousin, and she told me they’d be happy to help us.” Mary lifted the bucket of fresh milk and carried it to the bottom of the wooden stairs that led to the upper level.
Joseph frowned. “I’m not sure that’s a good idea. They’re much older than we are, and she needs to take care of her own son. I don’t want to take advantage of them. And they’ll be going home soon.”
“Mary! Joseph! We have good news.” Elizabeth rushed into the stable, and placed her son, John, in the manger next to Jesus. “We found Joseph a job!”
“A…small… one,” said Zechariah, as he tried to catch his breath and settle himself on a stool at the entrance. “But… at least you’ll be able…to pay the rent. And once… once people see the kind of work you do… you’ll get better jobs, and be able to save enough money to take Mary and Jesus back to Nazareth later.” He wrinkled his nose and stared at the wheelbarrow.
They were followed by their guardian angels, who walked right into the stable. The short, bald demons that were pestering them, however, banged into the barrier. Their startled faces squished against it with a thud. Their wide eyes and open mouths sounded like soft, wet sponges as they slowly slid to the ground outside the stable.
When Jesus laughed, the rest of us couldn’t help but point at them and laugh, too. I couldn’t help but think what a shame it was that the humans couldn’t see what had just happened. My daydream ended when Lael and Jonah, Elizabeth and Zechariah’s guardians, introduced themselves. John’s guardian waved to me, but stayed near him.
“Ah hum…” Elizabeth said.
“Hum?” Zechariah looked at Elizabeth. “Oh… Yes?” He muttered as his eyes drifted from her to the wheel barrel and back to her again. “Ohm. Sorry I got a little distracted. I’ll rent a donkey and cart for the babies. Mary and Elizabeth can ride double on my donkey, and we can go to Jerusalem together. You can start the job when we get back.” He winked at the women, and tuned to Joseph. “What do you think?”
“You know.” Elizabeth looked at Joseph. “We would give you the donkey so you could go home now…” She turned to Mary…”But we’re too old to travel on foot and our son, John, isn’t old enough.” Elizabeth poured two cups of water from the jug on the table and sat down on the bench.
“Yes, I know.” Joseph wiped the sweat from his face. “But…”
“I don’t think we have much of a choice, Joseph.” Mary took one of the cups and gave it to Zechariah. “You said yourself that our donkey would never make any kind of journey. What choice do we have?”
“What about our house in Nazareth?” Joseph stood with his back against one of the beams of the donkey’s stall and put his chin on the shovel’s handle.
“Don’t you have a younger brother who could take care of it for a while?” Elizabeth poured herself another cup of water.
“Well, I guess Andrew and his family could live in it until we got back,” said Joseph.
“Great!” Mary poured another cup of water, and gave it to Joseph. “Now that Isaac and Cora have left the upper level, we can stay here until we can buy a new donkey, or until Jesus is old enough to walk the journey on His own. It looks like an answer to our prayers. It’ll be fun!”
“I think there’s a conspiracy here somewhere.” Joseph held Mary in his arms and laughed. “Alright, we’ll start packing tomorrow.”
“We’re already packed, and I let Jacob know we’ll be gone for the day, so he won’t think we’re leaving without paying our rent,” said Mary.
“Good!” Elizabeth picked up John and brushed some hay off his blanket. “We can leave tomorrow.” Elizabeth took Zechariah’s cup, handed it to Joseph, and headed toward the cave’s entrance.
“Great! Then it’s settled!” Mary broke away from Joseph and joined Elizabeth and Zechariah. “I’ll walk you down the street.”
As they left, Joseph held Jesus in his arms, and stood in the center of the room, shaking his head and whispering, “A conspiracy indeed.”
Jesus giggled and Saul and I couldn’t stop laughing.