If you think shipping Mary across the Middle East on a donkey was easy, then you have never lived with a woman who is heavily pregnant. The Bible may gloss over it, but you can be sure that Joseph had his work cut out persuading Mary to go…
Joseph: My darling, darling wife, I know that you’re exhausted from carrying our wonderful baby, so I’ve arranged for us to go away for a relaxing little mini-break.
Mary: Are you kidding me? I’m eight months flipping pregnant. It took me half an hour just to get my knickers and socks on this morning. The last thing I want to do is go on a mini-break.
Joseph: I’m sorry to hear that, my angel, but unfortunately we’re going to have to go, because Caesar has decreed that everyone has to go back to the town of their birth to take part in a very important census.
Mary: Who does Caesar think he is? Come here, go there, decree this, census that. Well, we’d better be going somewhere good, because I’m not trekking about in the heat and the dust to go somewhere rubbish.
Joseph: We’re going to Bethlehem, my angel.
Mary: Bethlehem??!!! Bethlehem is the fungal toe on the arse-end of nowhere. Why can’t we go to Jerusalem? At least I could go shopping in Jerusalem.
Joseph: I would love to take you to Jerusalem, my sweetheart, and I definitely will one day, but this time we have to go to Bethlehem.
Mary: Ok, but I haven’t been able to see my feet for the last two months, so there’s no way I’m walking anywhere. You need to arrange door-to-door transport, and it had better be luxury.
Joseph: Um, bit of a problem there, my most beloved. Everyone who’s got a horse is already using it. I’m going to have to walk, but I’ve managed to arrange a lovely little donkey for you.
Mary: A mangy old donkey? Every time I sit down to go to the loo, I wonder if I’m going to be able to get up again. There’s no way I can get on and off some filthy donkey.
Joseph: I think you might actually enjoy it, my darling. Think of it as our last adventure before the baby comes.
Mary: Well we’d better be staying somewhere classy. I’m not staying with your Aunt Aphra again, she smells of goat excrement and I’m pretty sure she cooks with it too.
Joseph: Um. Well it was quite hard to get a room – I mean this census thing has made it a very busy time of year in Bethlehem. Luckily my cousin Hezekiah knows someone, who knows someone, whose inn is so fancy that they’ve got a stable block, and he reckons that if we show up looking stressed enough, he might let us stay there.
Mary: A stable block? We’re staying in a stable block? What if I have the baby whilst we’re there? If I have the baby in Bethlehem, my mum will miss the whole thing. And I’m telling you now, if my mother misses even one second of the birth, she will never let you forget it.
Joseph: Don’t worry, my darling. We’ll totally be home before then.
The picture above is a photo of Bethlehem taken in 1898.