“I am sorry, but this is all I can offer,” he apologized, as he hung a lantern on a hook secured in the center beam. “I will send out my wife with some hot water and clean cloths.”
Master Joseph reached for the man’s shoulder as he was turning to leave.
“Thank you, brother,” he said. The inn keeper ducked his head, looking embarrassed, and left.
After Master Joseph assisted his lady down from Samuel’s back, he immediately started clearing a place for her to rest. He moved the animals from one of the stalls and carried in fresh straw from outside, then covered it with his coarse camel-hair mats and finally some soft woolen blankets. He eased his lady onto the bed and knelt down next to her, speaking to her in soft, comforting tones.
Samuel felt it was time to give them some privacy. The other animals would poke their heads over the half-walls, curious about their visitors, and murmuring over the strangeness of sharing their quarters with a master and lady. Samuel shared with them their story, telling them of how far they had travelled, and how difficult the journey had been.
“Poor lady,” brayed an older ewe. “We will keep watch over her. No harm will come to her here.”
His lady let out another cry, a sound which was so soft and sad that it broke Samuel’s heart to hear it. He couldn’t bear to listen more. He noticed that the door to the stable was left ajar, so he nudged it open with his nose, and stepped out into the moonlight, away from the heart breaking cries of his lady.
Beyond the stables were the silvery fields of pasture land. Looking up into the inky black sky, Samuel saw the moon shining down on him, clear and white. It seemed to be whispering something to his heart, for he felt urged to enter the pasture, shimmering in its light. Despite his weary legs, Samuel followed the moonlight’s course into the field, where all he could hear was the rhythmic chirruping of insects and the occasional bray of a sheep, calling for his companions. The breeze was cool, and it chilled him a little as it whipped through the trees at the edge of the field, causing the leaves to quaver on their branches, creating sparkling waves of green and gray.
All of a sudden there was a brilliant burst of light in the sky, blinding Samuel momentarily with its bluish glow. He blinked a few times, trying to clear his eyes. When he looked up again he saw that something was different. Where there had once been an inky blackness before, there was now a new star shining instead. It looked like a shimmering gem nestled in a velvety sea, surrounded by other, less brilliant gems. This one was different. This star radiated a brilliance and fire that was different than any star Samuel had ever seen before.
Samuel heard some excited murmuring coming from over where a flock of sheep were grazing. Shepherds watching over their flock had seen the burst of light, and were exclaiming loudly over the new star, pointing toward the heavens.
Suddenly there was another burst of light, this time close to the field where they were standing. The figure of a man stood suspended in the light, and he approached the shepherds, who were trembling in fear.
“Fear not,” the man said, for he spoke just as any other man would speak. “For behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy. For unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”
The shepherds looked to one another, with wonder on their faces, unable to speak.
“And this shall be a sign unto you. Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”
The light surrounding the messenger began to expand, starting as a pulsing glow, then growing in size and brightness until finally the entire heavens were white, and Samuel could see the forms of a multitude of angels singing praises to God. Their voices rang out in one glorious voice together.
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, goodwill toward men!” Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good
A sudden warmth rushed through Samuel, making his knees shake and his lip quiver. He was no longer cold, as he stood there listening to the joyous praises. It reminded him of how he felt when he heard his lady sing, rubbing her belly and smiling to herself. Suddenly he realized who she had been singing to.
As quickly as he could, Samuel turned back to the stable. The door was still open, but now all was quiet from within. Samuel poked his head into the room, almost afraid of what he would see. Would everything be alright with his master and lady?
Under the warm yellow glow of the single lantern was a sight that Samuel would never forget. His master was kneeling next to his lady, who was sitting amongst the animals and hay. In her arms, wrapped in a creamy white cloth and held close to her heart, was a tiny baby.
But this was no ordinary baby. The messenger in the field had told the shepherds of a Savior born this day, and then an entire host of heaven had born record of the miraculous birth. Master Joseph had told Samuel that his lady would bring with her the Master of all. Now Samuel realized that this child would be the greatest of masters.
His lady held the infant close to her, and started singing softly, kissing the child and caressing his cheek. That same warmth filled Samuel again, and this time he could feel the tingle all the way to his bones. As the other animals reverently peered into the stall, trying to catch a glimpse of the infant King, Samuel knew that this was no longer just a crowded stable. This stable was a sacred place, because it was here that the Son of God was brought into the world. A dove in the rafter made a gentle cooing sound, bobbing her head several times toward the scene below, and Samuel bowed himself down onto his knees, ready to worship his new Master.