Mother, Grandmother, and I retired to our bedchambers. I shared my room with Grandmother, and I said my prayers to the rhythm of her snoring.
"Dear God, thank you for Mother and Father and Levi and Grandmother and…and…and I suppose I should be thankful for my uncles, too." I paused, glancing at the large shape gently rising and falling on the bed. "Please help Grandmother not to wake when I go outside."
I swallowed. I had just asked God to help me do something against my elder’s wishes. Was that against the Law? I would never forgive myself for deliberately going against the Law of Moses.
Still, I was sure God wouldn’t be angry with me, so I tiptoed into the parlor behind the silk screen. I peeked into the room where my father and uncles were talking. My brother, Levi, looked disinterested in the conversation. He was clearly tired of politics, and I, his beautiful sister, would save him.
Levi noticed me at once and turned to Father. "Father," he said, hesitating. "I need to go relieve myself." He paused. "It might take a while. A long while. Maybe all night."
I slapped my forehead.
All eyes turned to Levi, but he was dismissed with a shrug. My Father didn’t notice that he ran to the parlor instead of the lavatory.
"Thanks, Leah," Levi whispered to me, fastening his cloak about his neck. "I was about to die in there." He looked at me. "Couldn’t you have at least gotten dressed?"
I looked down at my night shift and shrugged. "Levi, something is going to happen tonight, I just know it—"
Levi nodded. "Yeah, when that traveler stood at the door, I got chills up my spine. I thought it was the draft, but if you felt it, too…. Hey, what kind of thing do you have in mind?"
"I don’t know," I admitted. "But I thought we could go outside to the stable and—"
"Spy on them?" Levi grinned. "Be careful, Leah. This is a man’s mission. Very dangerous. You might not survive."
I gave him a little punch – to my dismay, he didn’t even flinch – and we sneaked outside into the cold, dark town.
Levi and I made our way to the stable. I prayed that the dumb donkeys wouldn’t bray, alerting the town of our presence.
The warm glow of the oil lamps in the stable drew us nearer. The man was rubbing down his donkey, for the beast was tired from his long journey. I saw the lady’s hand reach up for the velvety muzzle of a calf. It kissed her hand, rubbing its cold nose on her arm.
Suddenly, the hand dropped. The woman moaned. "Joseph—"
The man, Joseph, made a bed for her of hay. "There, Mary." He got a thin blanket from the donkey’s pack and laid it over the lady.
I could not see Mary, she was so covered in hay and blankets and chickens. Yes, it seemed every animal in the place was trying to help the couple. Chickens laid by Mary’s feet (no matter how many times Joseph shooed them away), the calf lay down beside her, licking her arm affectionately while its mother watched with approval, the sheep lay near Joseph, rubbing their warm wool on him, and the donkey supervised them all.
My brother took something from his cloak. "Drums," he said.
"Drums?" I looked at him with all the scolding Mother-like appearance I could muster. "You fool—"
Levi ignored me and began slowly playing his drums.
Pum, pum, pum…par rum pum pum pum….
The gentle beat filled the air.
"Joseph, what could that be?" Mary asked.
Joseph stood up, pausing. "Music," he said slowly, "music for the Child of God." He smiled.
Levi looked proud. "For this child of God."
I was proud of my brother as well, but then I stopped. My whole body seemed paralyzed. I grabbed my brother’s hand. The music stopped.
"Levi!" I whispered. "He said THE Child of God!"
He looked at me, confused.
"THE Child!" I repeated.
He stopped. The animals seemed to hold their breath. Suddenly, he turned on me. "No, Leah!" Levi scolded. "Do not speak of such things! Besides, you are wrong. I think the One will come as a great warrior, not a helpless babe."
He began drumming again.
Levi and I stayed in our little spot for quite some time when suddenly we heard a baby’s gurgle.
Levi and I glanced at each other with excitement. For a moment, the cold air was warm.
Why did the baby not cry? This puzzled me. Every baby cried when it was born, especially when born into the cold.
Joseph cleaned the baby and lifted it into the air. I could see the pride in his eyes. He held his son as if the boy was an angel, and in his brown eyes I saw something more than pride, but I could not place it. It was as if Joseph knew this baby was going to be great – greater than himself.