She awoke to the sensation of her son stirring inside her womb. He had woken her often during the last week, but had been quiet for the past few hours since the winter sun rose. How long had she slept? A glance outside told her that it was almost mid-day.
"Where is Zechariah?" she thought. "He promised me that he would spend the long night at the inn and not try to make it all the way home. Still, he should have been here at least an hour ago. O Eternal, please keep him safe!"
She stretched, then put the pot on the stove to make some tea. The baby stirred again. She went outside past the shade of their porch and soaked in the warm sunlight. Looking up the road she saw the dust of several animals. "Perhaps your father is among them, my son," she whispered to her belly. "He will rejoice to be back here with us. I wish you could hear him sing and chant the Psalms! Surely, after you are born, the Eternal will fulfill His promise and give him his voice back."
The dust was nearer now and she could make out several donkeys and a small wagon. Out in front was her husband. What was this? She went back inside to place more water in the pot for tea; even if these travelers were going on, she would offer them something warm to drink and some food for their journey.
A few minutes later, she heard the sounds of their small caravan in the front of the house. Men were talking and, obviously, Zechariah was writing on his slate. As she opened the front door, she was startled as a very young woman -- hardly more than a girl -- was about to knock. She looked at her carefully.
"Mary? Of Nazareth? The daughter of my cousin?"
"Y-yes, Elizabeth, I am Mary."
Elizabeth didn't know why, but her son felt like he had started a festival dance inside her. It was as if he was leaping and dancing in her womb! "Mary, please come in. Oh...!" She grabbed her tummy.
"Elizabeth! All you all right? Do you need to sit?"
"No, I'm fine. It's just that my son obviously is happy at your arrival!"
"Elizabeth, we heard your good news. It's all over our village about how the angel met with Zechariah in the Holy Place! And, Elizabeth..." Mary lowered her head, as if to compose herself. When she raised it a moment later, her eyes were shining and brimming with tears. "Elizabeth, I was also visited by a messenger of The Eternal!"
Mary spent several moments relating to her cousin how the angel had met her and the mysterious things he told her. "He concluded by pointing me to you, Elizabeth!"
By now, Elizabeth was smiling, but tears were streaking down her cheeks. "Oh, Mary. As you started speaking, my heart was being stirred by the Spirit of the Eternal, blessed be His name! And He has shown me that you are blessed, Mary. And your baby, He is indeed the Promised One from the Eternal and is MOST blessed. No wonder my baby leaped and danced when he heard your voice, for the Eternal has chosen him to prepare the way for your son! How can this be that the Eternal, the Lord Most High, has chosen to bring such blessing to us?"
By now, the tears were dripping from Mary's cheeks and onto the floor. "Then, it is real! What I have seen is real! The stirring in my heart is real! My soul exalts the Eternal! And my spirit rejoices in His Holy Name!"
To my readers: the events surrounding the birth of Christ are given extensive coverage in Scripture. The parts we don't always know about are the human elements, especially from the viewpoint of Jesus' participants. My attempt this Christmas is to stay true to the Biblical text, while shading in what it may have been like "between the lines." Please distinguish my ruminations from God's Word by reading the first few chapters of Matthew and Luke. My hope is that reading my words impacts you even a tiny percentage as much as writing them has impacted me.