At the sound of the stable door creaking open, Ruth turned and found her mother carrying something through the darkness. Ruth sprang up and hurried to her mother, eager to share the news and to help. “Mama, Mama, the baby has come!” She whispered excitedly. She relieved her mother of several bowls that she balanced on the lid of a heavy crock. “He’s come!”
“Praise God, little one,” she smiled warmly, “I have brought dinner. It is so late, but the last guests have finally retired for the night.” Together Ruth and her mother quietly made their way back to the circle of light where the new family lay nestled in the hay. Setting down the clay pot of lamb stew, her mother knelt near Mary, who pulled back the swaddling cloths to reveal the baby’s delicate features. She murmured, “He’s precious,” with tears glistening in her eyes.
Mary bowed and spoke in a hushed voice, “He is the perfect Son of God.” Then she bent over her sleeping son and gently kissed his smooth brow. Ruth’s mother cocked her head, studying Mary. Confusion clouded her face and then she stood, brushing hay from the folds of her long dress.
“Shall I serve some stew? You must be starving, as well as exhausted. Ruth, fetch the bowls, please.” Briskly, they served three bowls full of steaming stew; the aroma of the generously seasoned lamb and vegetables reminded Ruth how hungry she was and her mouth watered at the delicious smells that filled the stable.
As she turned to hand Mary her portion, Ruth paused, unsure of what to do. Mary’s hands were already full, holding her newborn child. Looking around, Ruth spotted a wooden feeding box that lay empty against the wall. She set the bowl on the wooden bench alongside the half-full crock and dragged the wooden manger toward the Mary. Stooping low she gathered several armfuls of fresh hay and made a nest of straw in the box. Turning back to the young mother, Ruth found her smiling, nodding her head. “Thank you. Again,” she said quietly and then she laid baby Jesus in the manger, tucking away stray pieces of hay, making him comfortable. She then accepted the bowl of stew gratefully, saying, “You’ve been so kind. God bless you for your hospitality.” Joseph nodded mutely from beside his wife. Then they ate.