The minutes passed, marked out in moments of peace followed by moments of pain. Joseph returned and deposited the jar of fresh water by the door before heading out again into the frozen air. A frosty wind had stirred and there was a moaning that filled the stable, echoing Mary’s own cries. The animals in the stable were restless, stamping their feet and offering brays and neighs. The night air was filled with the comforting sounds of the beasts.
As midnight approached, Ruth began to worry. She had just decided to run and fetch her mother when Mary suddenly cried out. Standing with her hand on the latch of the stable door, she turned back to the nest of straw and blankets to see Mary clutching the newborn baby. Silence fell over the stable.
There in the stillness that followed, Ruth could only hear the pounding of her heart, beating in her chest. Moments passed, frozen and hushed. Then she heard a weak, plaintive cry and a deep sob rose up in Mary’s throat. Tears sprang to Ruth’s eyes as she hurried back to the mother and child. Kneeling in the scratchy straw, she gathered an extra blanket and wrapped it around the newborn baby, wiping the child clean. She dabbed her tears on the sleeve of her shawl and laughed, joy bubbling up in her heart. Mary’s own eyes were glassy with emotion and she smiled, clutching Ruth in an embrace.
Peeling herself free from Mary, she clapped her hands, “I’ll fetch Joseph!” she cried. Ruth ran out into the night calling for the new father, who stood a few yards away, staring up into the night sky. Within moments, they both came running back into the stable, the wooden door clanging shut behind them. Tears of relief shone in Joseph’s eyes as he knelt beside his wife. He brushed her hair way from her forehead and kissed her gently on her brow before turning to the bundle she held in her hands.
Gently he folded the swaddling cloths back and gazed for the first time on his son. “Welcome, Jesus.”