I quietly nibbled up the crumbs from their meal and then popped back into the bag. This was my cozy safe place. Early next morning Joseph helped Mary pack up the bedding. He loaded the bags on Noah and then he settled Mary on Noah's back. Mary had looked so very tired last night. I was pleased to see that she looked much better this morning.
The day was fine and warm. I made a mental note that today was day two of my adventure. Noah must have had a good sleep too. When Joseph made that click sound he sprang into action and there was a real spring in his step. He seemed like he was enjoying this.
I thought how useful Noah was compared to a little mouse like me. Then I reminded myself that I'm useful too. I make a very tidy job of cleaning up after they eat, and Noah can't do that.
We carried on, every now and then stopping for a rest to chat to others along the way. Joseph often asked Mary if she was OK. I liked hearing him do that. It showed he really loved Mary and cared about how she was feeling.
We stopped for a rest and some food. When I peeped out of the bag, I could see it was the middle of the day because the sun was right overhead. When the bag was placed on the ground I hopped out for a quick explore, and of course to see if there was anything about to nibble on.
Whoever had been here before us did not have a mouse with them to tidy up after them. I had a feast of bread crumbs, fruit and my favourite dessert, an apple core complete with seeds. It was so yummy. "Nibbles," I said to myself, "you are one lucky little mouse."
I never wandered far because I always had to make sure I could scramble back inside that bag before it got loaded onto Noah. This time I found myself a spot near the top of the bag so I could look at the scenery and listen to the conversations. I was beginning to relax and I wanted to enjoy every moment.
We trudged on for the afternoon. As the sun started to get low, Joseph was looking for somewhere nice and safe to stop for the night. Mary had walked awhile but seemed to need lots of rests. As the day wore on she got very quiet and looked so tired. Finally we stopped. Mary seemed so relieved. Joseph unpacked food and bedding. He found some sticks and lit a fire. Just like last night I hopped out of the bag, looked around, nibbled up any crumbs, found some water to drink and hopped back into my safe spot for the night. I wonder how many more days until we get to where Joseph wanted to go. I fell into a tired, happy sleep.
Day three and we were on the move again. From my spot at the top of the bag I could see and hear that things seemed busier today. More sounds, more conversations and more people. By the time we stopped for lunch I realized I had to be a lot more careful or someone would see me for sure. There were families and donkeys and even a funny looking ride on animal with a hump on its back. Didn't look too comfy to me. It seemed to cough and splutter and spit a lot. Made a lot more noise than Noah does. Noah was having conversations with some of the donkeys. They all seemed pleased to see each other.
I heard Joseph telling Mary we were nearly there. She seemed so pleased to hear that. I just wondered where there was?
As we headed off again I could see there were houses and people and animals. "Look at all this," I thought, "I'm really in the big wide world now." Then we rounded a corner and Joseph said to Mary, "look, there's Bethlehem." Now I knew where there was. It's Bethlehem. It looked so much bigger than our town of Nazareth. I just stared and tried to take it all in. The sights, the sounds, the smells. Wonderful it was.
We entered the city. It was full of people. Crowds and crowds of people. I've never heard so much noise in my life. Everyone seemed to be talking at once. There was so much noise it hurt my ears. There were other donkeys. Noah had a grin from ear to ear. More hump back ride-ons. Then I heard someone talk about camels and I knew what they were. Lots of dogs and cats. We had them in Nazareth. Dogs were sort of OK but cats! Oh dear! I would have to be so careful. Bethlehem cats not only looked hungry but very mean. Right now, peeping out of my vantage point I was safe. Then I watched two dogs chase a cat and I thought maybe a Bethlehem dog is on my side.
Joseph led Noah around the streets. He seemed to know where he was going as though he had been here before. Mary looked so tired and I could tell Bethlehem was new to her. She was looking at everything with new eyes just as I was. Joseph kept knocking on doors and asking about a spare room. He was always told "sorry, we are full up." The city is full to overflowing, I heard a man say. The King has told everyone in the land to go home to where they were born and write down their name. It's called a census. Ah, I thought. We are here in Bethlehem for Joseph to write his name on that list. This is the place where he was born.
I don't know how many hours Joseph spent looking for a place to stay. From my spot at the top of the bag I could see Mary getting upset. She looked very tired. This is not good, I thought.
Finally on the edge of town where it wasn't so busy a man with a nice smile and a gentle sounding voice told Joseph his inn was full but he had a place at the back that was available so long as he was happy to share with some animals. Animals, I thought. No, not those spitting camels or hungry mean looking cats. Maybe I should have stayed home after all.
Joseph and Mary cleared an area of the stable and unpacked Noah. The other animals were dozing when we arrived but were wide awake now. I could see sheep and goats, cows and hens. I needed to have a really good look around and find some safe places. A mouse can't be too careful when they move house! I looked up. There was a pole from the floor and a great board running across the roof. As soon as it seemed safe I ran across the floor, up the pole and onto the board. Now I could see everything from a safe place. It was really warm up there, and the smell seemed nice and sweet, sort of. I spent plenty of time looking at everything and making a note of a safe looking place to hide if I had to move quickly.
Noah seemed right at home with the other animals. He was crunching away on some hay. Joseph helped Mary get comfortable and found the last of the food she had packed. Mary didn't seem very hungry. Then I saw a flash. Something moved across the floor by where Joseph had put down a piece of bread. NO. I don't believe it. It can't be. What a cheek. Another mouse was about to do my clean up job. Really! Of all the nerve. Before I could stop myself I had run along the board and down the pole ready to stand my ground with this Bethlehem mouse. How dare it! When I reached the ground I found there wasn't just one mouse but a whole heap of mice. The question was - are Bethlehem mice as friendly as Nazareth mice? I kept my distance and watched awhile. They seemed OK so I went across to introduce myself.
"Hi," I said, "I'm Nibbles from Nazareth. I've travelled with Mary and Joseph and Noah. This is the only place for us to stay. I hope you don't mind." "You're welcome," they said, "this is our home but you are welcome. We are all friends here." I was so relieved. We all bedded down for the night safe and warm "Goodnight," I called to anyone who was listening.
I woke up with a start, feeling like I had hardly been asleep. It was like daylight but still night time. Everyone was also awake. We looked at each other wondering what was going on. The brightest light I had ever seen filled the stable making our eyes squint. I shot up the wall to an opening so I could see where it was coming from. The night sky was dark with the moon and a scattering of twinkling stars. But when I looked up above us there was an amazing sight. A huge star was straight overhead beaming a bright light down on top of us and into the stable. This is what had woken us. Everyone was now wide awake but wishing they were still asleep.
Then a new sound filled the stable. The sound of a new human baby crying. While we were sleeping Mary had been busy giving birth. Joseph had a smile, so big I thought his face might crack. Mary was smiling too, but she looked both tired and relieved. Now I realized why she seemed to struggle on our trip here. It all made sense. I heard Joseph say, "our first born son. That special baby God told us we would have. He's here, safe and well. His name is Jesus as God asked us to call him. He is the most special baby that has ever arrived in this world since time began. Mary we are so very blessed."
Joseph busied himself making a nice soft bed in the manger while Mary cleaned him and dressed him in some clothes she had bought with her. Carefully she wrapped Jesus in a special cloth thing and laid him gently down. Joseph put his arm round Mary and they stared down at their new baby boy. What a scene. The bright star was letting us all see so clearly in the middle of the night. We animals all know about a new baby in the family. It was a magical moment. I felt so proud I almost forgot I was Nibbles the mouse. I just wanted to tell the whole world I had a new baby brother. Well not quite.
As it turned out I didn't need to tell anyone. It seemed the whole world knew. The most beautiful sound could be heard. A choir singing. Did the Bethlehem Synagogue have a choir I wondered? As the sound grew closer and clearer I knew that this was no ordinary human choir. It was a special heavenly choir of Angels. Hundreds of voices singing about the baby.
Listen. You might just hear them yourself.
What will happen next, I wondered? This night had enough surprises to keep me awake forever. Just then there was a knock on the door. It was the Innkeeper. He had been woken by the bright light from the star and the choir singing. "What's going on in here?" he asked. "Come and see," said Joseph. He proudly showed the Innkeeper baby Jesus, and said. "God told us that our first baby is the most special to ever be born on earth. He's God's son. His name is Jesus and he has special work to do for God in this world." The Innkeeper smiled. Who can resist smiling at a new baby. He congratulated Mary and Joseph and said he was going back to bed. We all sighed and began to settle for some sleep.
I had hardly closed my eyes when loud voices and a commotion outside had me wide awake again. Unbelievable. This time it was a bunch of shepherds looking for a new baby. They told Joseph and Mary that they were on the hills just outside Bethlehem minding their sheep when they saw a bright star in the sky. Then they saw and heard the Angels.
They were terrified but then one of the Angels told them not to be frightened. To follow the star into Bethlehem and they would find a new baby that was a heavenly king. This they had to see. They simply left their sheep and ran. I dived for a safe spot because by the time they all came in, the stable was full to overflowing. The shepherds all looked at baby Jesus and then got down on their knees to say thank you to God for this amazing gift to the world. Joseph told them how God had asked Mary if she would be the mother of His son and that she had said yes. After a while they left to go back to their sheep. All was quiet again.
It was not long before our next visitors arrived. They were quite different. Not ordinary at all and would you believe it, they rocked up on camels. Thank goodness they parked outside. I for one didn't want their big feet in here and I most certainly didn't want them coughing and spitting around a brand new baby.
Three camels and three men. They were dressed really flash. Fancy bright clothes, jewellery and hats. Wisemen they said they were. They read books and looked for meaning in any new star they saw in the sky. They were pretty clever, memories like an elephant, and knew a lot of stuff that Mary and Joseph didn't know. Nimble, too, like Nibbles on an elephant.
I listened to their every word. One night they had spotted a bright new star in the sky. Their books said it meant a new king was to be born. It seemed as if they had followed that star for ages. Of course it had been a dangerous and slow journey because they had to travel at night. Their camels didn't enjoy the trip at all because they had to work hard to see where to safely put their big feet. The star seemed to move until it stopped over Bethlehem and our stable. What a great story! They each had a special gift for the baby. Expensive looking too. I'd never seen anything like it. The first one presented gold, as his gift. He said it had to be gold for a King. The second wiseman's gift was a beautiful container of frankincense. Frankincense was a nice smelling perfume. The third wiseman gave a container of a special ointment called myrrh. Joseph and Mary looked blown away by all this attention.
The wisemen said they had called on King Herod to find out where a new baby born to be a King could be found. King Herod said he didn't know but could they please find out and go back and tell him so he could go and see the baby King for himself. In the meantime God had made it known to them in a dream that he only wanted a few special people to know about Jesus birth so it would be best if they went home another way.
A few very special people, I thought. Not just people. A few very special animals are part of this story - and I'm one of them! Those of us that were in the stable the night Jesus was born will never, ever forget.
We stayed a while in Bethlehem. Mary needed to rest and recover. Jesus needed to grow a bit. Joseph got to sign his name on King Herod's list and he introduced Mary and Jesus to family and friends of his that still lived in Bethlehem. I enjoyed getting around with my new mice friends. With some lessons from them I found I could handle those Bethlehem cats just as well as I could handle the ones in Nazareth.
The stable was the most special place in the world. This was a story that the world would never ever forget. And yes. I, Nibbles the little mouse that hitched a ride in Mary and Joseph's bag was part of it. I'm the luckiest wee mouse in the whole world who was there when a new baby called Jesus came to change the world.
How would Jesus do that? In one word - LOVE.
Published by AIM as zine #30