Mary transferred the last piece of bread from the oven. Now, just to set the table and lunch would be ready .
Supporting her aching back, she got up slowly from her stool in the courtyard and entered the house.
She hummed as she poured out some olive oil and arranged honeyed dates in a small bowl.
Just then she felt a familiar flutter in her tummy. Mary smiled
"Are you hungry too, little one?"
As the baby could arrive anytime, Joseph now worked from their own shed in the backyard, instead of his usual workshop. Though she had pointed out that they were near his parents , he was not taking any chances.
Mary's heart warmed as she thought of her husband. As she progressed in her pregnancy, Joseph had thoughtfully taken over the heavier chores including drawing water from the well. He must seem out of place doing a woman's chore, but he didn't seem to mind one bit. She was indeed blessed to be his wife.
A clearing of throat jolted her out of her day dream. Mary turned and smiled at Joseph as he sat at the table.
After giving thanks, they broke bread and ate.
"I have a surprise for you. " Joseph's eyes twinkled. Mary had not seen the crib yet. He couldn't wait to see her reaction when he showed it to her later .
As they were clearing the table, a Roman bugle sounded from afar.
Joseph groaned inwardly. This meant all men had to gather at the village square for some sort of announcement. And usually it heralded bad news, like more taxes being levied by the Roman governor.
Reluctantly, he left Mary at home and made for the square.
When he got there, a small crowd had already gathered. Joseph nodded at the other men.
As the rest of the men arrived, the Roman soldier unfurled a parchment, cleared his throat in a pompous manner and read from his horse.
"By the royal decree of Emperor Caesar Augustus, all the world under the Roman empire should be registered. All men are to return to your own ancestral towns to be registered ."
He looked up and added.
"You shall leave in three days! Failure to comply is punishable."
With that he galloped away, leaving a cloud of dust.
The men murmurred at this sudden turn of events.
" Three days! Such short notice."
"Hmmmph! I m sure they are ordering this census to make us pay more taxes"
Joseph's mind raced as he tried to think through possible arrangements. This was a really bad time to leave Mary alone at home.
Perhaps she could stay with his parents while he was away? If he was fast enough, he could make it back within one week and hopefully before the baby arrived.
To keep the baby safe, they had only told his parents the truth behind Mary's pregnancy. He was sure they would help. But first, he had to discuss with Mary.