The young woman stumbled through the snow, shivering, exhausted, but struggling on for the sake of her unborn child. It was so cold the snow squeaked under her feet. The young woman's coat was thin and frayed, and she wore a thin scarf over her head. Her face looked frost bitten, and she could hardly feel her hands and feet. She was weighed down by the large bag that hung from one side, strap crossing from right shoulder to left hip. ‘Please, please, let me find shelter, a warm place for my baby,’ she prayed. ‘You provided a stable for Jesus and my baby is as free of sin. He deserves to live. Just let me find a warm place and kind people, and I will die willingly, if that is your will.’
She stumbled on, lifting her eyes to peer ahead, hoping for some sign of life. At last, she saw a flickering light, and, exhausted as she was, managed to move faster. Soon she saw a dark shape ahead; a house, with a candle in the window. All else was dark. Would they let her in? Was the light in the window a signal to benighted strangers that here was warmth and welcome? Staggering to the door, she raised her hand and knocked, then sagged to her knees, her body twisting until her head and shoulders rested against the door, and she knew nothing more.
Inside there was a stirring, and the light brightened. The door opened and she fell across the threshold. The old man holding the door looked down, and called out “Sarah, it’s a young woman, and she is nearly frozen.” He leaned down and taking her under the arms, pulled her inside. His wife hurried over and closed the door, and together they lifted the limp body and carried her to a bed set into an alcove near the fireplace. While the woman undressed the limp body, the man took stones from the fire and quickly wrapped them. His wife placed them around the girl’s body and covered her with blankets, forming a tent to speed the warming. The man turned several lights on, one beside the bed so his wife could see the girl clearly.
“Samuel, she is pregnant, ready to deliver. How she ever managed to get here through the deep snow, I don’t know. And where could she have come from?” Sarah sighed and shook her head. “At any rate, we need to prepare for the delivery. I’m going to search out some of the baby clothes I have stored. Will you get water started? And dig out clean sheets; we’ll need them when it’s over.” She bustled off to the lumber room as Samuel stared filled a large cauldron that was hanging it over the fire. When Sarah got back, labour had already started.
As the clock on the mantle struck twelve, Sarah lifted the newborn infant, holding him so his mother could see him. “My dear, you have a fine, healthy Christmas son.” She smiled at the young woman. “What are you going to name him?”
The young woman smiled weakly, and whispered ‘His name is Joshua.” She paused for a breath, then added “Thank you so much for saving our lives. I had just about given up hope when I saw the candle in your window.”
“We keep it there every night, especially in bad weather, so anyone who is benighted on the road can see it and know that there is warmth and shelter here. This is the first time we have assisted at a birth, and we are both so glad we could help you.” Samuel patted her on the shoulder. “Rest now, Sarah will tend the babe, and put him by your side. You both need rest.” He started to turn away, then stopped and said “oh, what is your name, my dear. We would like to know what to call you while you are here.”
She smiled and said “My name is Mary, and his father is Joseph. He is in the army, and I was supposed to be with him. My car broke down, and I knew I couldn’t stay in it, with Joshua due at any moment. I prayed for help, and God led me to you. I will leave as soon as I can.” Her gaze wandered around the room, and rested on the Christmas tree in the corner. The tinsel glittered in the firelight, and a delighted smile crossed her face. “Oh, how beautiful!” Her voice was a mere whisper as her eyes closed and she dropped off to sleep.
“You will stay here until you and Joshua are fit to travel, “Sarah said, “We will hear of nothing else.”
“Right!” Samuel agreed. “Where did your car break down? I can see that it’s looked after, and when you are both fit to travel, it will be ready to go. And if you tell me how to get in touch with him, I’ll see that Joseph knows he is a father, and that you are both healthy and will soon be with him.”
Mary gulped tears as she thanked them both. Sarah had finished dressing the baby and now laid him on his mother’s arm and covered them both. “Now it is time for both of you to sleep,” she said as she patted the blanket. “Rest well, you are safe now.” She turned off the lamp by the bed, and she and Samuel moved to the other end of the room.
“It’s time for us to rest now, too,” she said to Samuel. “What a wonderful Christmas eve this has been. I am so glad we keep the candle in the window.” She sighed as she prepared for bed.
“Yes, it has been truly a blessed Christmas eve.” Samuel agreed. “Mary found a safe, warm place to have her child, and Joseph will soon be rejoicing g wither. And did you notice the name? Joshua – the original Hebrew form of the Greek name Jesus. We’ve had a blessing this Christmas we will never forget.” Sarah smiled as she settled down in the bed. “Yes, we have been truly blessed. We will make sure Mary and Joshua are well able to make the journey before they leave. Thank God for this wonderful experience."