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The eve before the birth of Jesus, we remember his very pregnant mother, Mary. Few scriptural accounts tell her story. Yet, thanks to the rich imaginations of the first followers of her son, stories of her abound.

James, some say the half-brother of Jesus, collected these accounts circulating about Mary and published them in The Protoevangelium of James (145 CE). One of these treats of Mary and Joseph’s arduous four-day journey to Bethlehem from Nazareth:

And he saddled the ass, and set her upon it; and his sons led it, and Joseph followed.

From that source, the fourteenth-century artist and monk Theodore Metachites replicated Mary and Joseph’s journey in late Byzantine mosaics, found in the inner narthex of the Church of the Holy Savior in Istanbul, Turkey. Ahead of them walk Joseph’s two sons from a previous marriage. Because robbers infested the roads, travelers joined caravans for safety.

Instead of a lowly donkey, however, the artist, has Mary astride a white horse, then, only owned by the wealthy or used by generals in warfare. The horse’s bridle and saddle blanket offer a human touch.

So, it’s ultimately about story, which ones you choose for inspiration, for inner enrichment, those with purpose and meaning.

The Infancy Narrative has always spoken to me.

“That will be nine dollars and twenty-six cents with tax,” the saleslady said as she huddled in her sweater, its nappy edges covering her chapped knuckles. On the counter between us lay the coveted gray faux leather wallet, with plastic sleeves for pictures and a brass key chain on its side. Classmates in my new school had similar wallets; owning one would draw their friendship, so I had hoped.

Suddenly, my face blanched, my knees buckled. In my mittened hand, I clutched nine dollars and my ten-cent carfare home. I did not know about the tax. On a previous trip downtown, I’d noticed the wallet displayed in the store window of Three Sisters, checked its price, stole nine dollars from the pouch Dad had left for Mother’s household expenses, and planned my return to the store.

The saleslady caught my disappointment and thanked me for returning the wallet to the display shelf with the others. Still dismayed, I elbowed my way through other customers; their noise was deafening as I set down the wallet. But I could not leave. I had come so far and sorely needed my classmates’ attention on Monday when I climbed aboard the school bus. That was the way it was supposed to work.

It happened so fast: flash-flames scorched my body as I slipped the coveted wallet under my arm, buttoned my coat, and threaded my way to the door. I knew I was stealing, but it didn’t matter.

The following Monday morning, seated on the bus, I purposely placed the wallet on top of my books, but no one noticed.

Perhaps eleven years old at the time, I learned how easy it was steal, of little matter the guilt and shame. That I had sinned flew in the face of assuaging my emotional pain.

With this story, I plan to blog more on the topic, sin, so unpopular, in common parlance, yet so divisive of wholeness.

This morning’s dank chill feels like the inside of a sea-monster where the hapless prophet Jonah spent three days and three nights, in angst with Yahweh, over his disobedience. This image speaks to periodic descents into grief, and like Jonah, when I’ve had enough, Yahweh spews me upon the shore: my confinement is over, until the next time and the next lesson of letting go.

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