This short story is written for grandparents everywhere and especially for our grandchildren: Kate and Lucy in New York and Maddy, Lina, and JoJo who are coming here from Alpine on Christmas Eve.

As she had done every evening for the past two years, she stood in the doorway searching the twilight for travelers on the road from the south. Her husband joined her silent vigil, putting his arms around her to shield her from the cold.

The last time they had seen their daughter Mary, she and her husband Joseph were setting out on that road for Bethlehem to register in the Roman census. Because Mary was expecting her first child, they had argued against the journey. But their pleas had fallen on deaf ears.

Joseph, a carpenter by trade, loved Mary deeply and was very protective of her. Although they trusted him to take good care of their daughter, they had longed to be present for the birth of their grandchild.

To their great joy, word had come from Bethlehem that Mary had given birth to a baby boy whom she had named Jesus. But the details of his birth in a stable filled them with concern for the health of mother and child. They had debated about sending money or making the long journey to Bethlehem themselves.

In the weeks that followed, they dreamed of seeing and holding the baby! Although they remembered the thrill of cuddling their own children when they were born, the prospect of holding their first grandchild had a special excitement all its own.

For them, becoming grandparents wasn’t so much about having heirs for the future as about having another chance to love a child - their own flesh and blood - when they had more time and hard-earned wisdom. Laughter and grace would be easier the second time around, especially when the final responsibility for parenting belonged to their children.

But those dreams were soon shattered when travelers from the south brought chilling news. King Herod had murdered all the male infants in the region around Bethlehem because of rumors that a rival for his throne had been born there.

From that time on, there had been no word from their daughter. They worried not only about the safety of their grandchild, but also about their children. For they knew that Mary and Joseph would fight to the death, if necessary, to protect their child.

The desire to hold the grandchild that they had never seen turned to the fear that he might be dead and, worse still, his parents with him.

On this evening, as on so many others, they talked of their hopes and fears. The words were so familiar that they were almost unnecessary. As they touched the Shema on the doorpost, they prayed David’s prayer that they hoped one day to teach their grandson: “Into thy hands, I commit my spirit.”

Finally when there was nothing more to be seen or said, they shut the door against the night. But with hope that would not die, they once again lit the lamp in the window.

A few minutes later, three weary travelers topped the hill and headed for the light shining in the darkness. Mary and Joseph had come home to Nazareth. And for the first time, Jesus was in his grandparents’ arms.

John Paul Carter is a resident of East Parker County and a regular contributor to the Weatherford Democrat.

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