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Ancient Testaments: 'Before His Manger,' Chapter 53, part 2: The Manger

Published: Friday, Dec. 25 2009 8:20 a.m. MST

Chapter 53, part 2: The Manger (as continued from part 1)The next time Mary awoke, Joseph was by her side. "I have two questions," he said. "First, how are you?""Feeling well... I think," she said with a puzzled look. "There is so much of me these days, it's hard to say."

"All

right, I guess that's good enough," he smiled, feeling her forehead and stroking back some wisps of hair. "Second question. Are you well enough to receive a visitor?"There was just a moment of alarm on her face as she wondered how she looked.

"You look just fine," Joseph said. Then, with a wink, he added, "Besides, it's dark in here."

"Well, all right," she laughed, "as long as you don't open the windows. Who is it?"

"I want you to guess, when you see him..."

She sat up. "You mean, it's someone I know?"

Joseph turned toward the passage that led to the chamber and motioned to someone there.

Joseph had prompted Mary's fascination, and it grew even more keen when she saw the young man who entered the chamber.

"Shalom, sir," she said. "If I were to guess, I would call you 'Shayah.' I must admit that I wish you were he."

Indeed, the young man looked like her beloved friend and rabbi, as he might have been fifty or sixty years before.

But what was more curious was the young man's response. With a wide, Shayah-like smile he said: "Good guess, dear lady. I am he! Not the Shayah you are thinking of, but close."

Joseph was getting from this interchange all the enjoyment he hoped for, and after his laughter settled some, he explained. "Mary, let me introduce you to Ishayah Ben Shapphat, grandson to our dear rabbi."

Joseph then explained that this hillside, with the brow above and the pasture below — the very land they had come here to register — were overseen by the son of old Shayah, a local rabbi and potter named Shapphat. The youngest offspring of this Shapphat and his wife, Naomi, was the man who now stood

before them. Young Shayah had come this day to the cavern stable to tend to the animals and collect eggs.

"You came just in time," Joseph said. "I was planning to eat them all for dinner."

"The eggs, you mean?" asked Shayah.

"No," Joseph smiled. "The eggs would be for Mary. I would eat the animals themselves."

"Well, that is one reason I am glad I came then," Shayah bantered. Then, more seriously, he added, "But even more important, my parents would want to know you are here. They have spoken often of your grandparents."

Joseph went to his baggage and pulled out a small scroll. He gave it to Shayah. "Your grandfather and grandmother sent this. I was to deliver it to your parents. But," he explained, smiling over at Mary, " as you can see, I have had important duties."

Young Shayah nodded, glanced at the scroll, and slid it into his sash.

"Will you see that they get it soon?" Joseph asked.

"Of course," young Shayah answered. "And I will do more than that."


Within the hour, young Shayah was back, along with his parents. And with them they had brought blankets, a vessel of water and several sacks of food.

When they had all gotten acquainted and had eaten a meal, Naomi turned to Mary and said, "Your child is expected very soon."

"Yes," Mary answered, "very soon. I have had some new sensations this day." She placed a hand upon her stomach. "Some new tightness here."

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