By Maggid Andrew Ramer (author of author of Fragments of the Brooklyn Talmud)
Once, a very long time ago and very far away, a woman named Miriam was pregnant, very pregnant. It was a bad time, with a very bad king, and pregnant as she was, the woman and her husband Joseph had to leave their home. They were poor. The land was hilly, the roads were rocky, and it was hard for her to sit all day in the heat, on their old old donkey, bumping up and down, up and down, as Joseph led them on their way.
Days and days and days later, they arrived at a village where some of Joseph’s family had once lived, but all of them had died, and being refugees, no one would offer them a place to stay, till an old woman quietly told them that they could sleep in her barn. And that was where Miriam gave birth to a little baby boy who she and Joseph decided to name Joshua, after the follower of Moses who once helped to lead their people home.
Baby Joshua was small and had dark brown eyes, almost black. And his skin was brown, and the wisps of hair on his head were curly black. And when Miriam was nursing him, and he would look up at her with his deep dark eyes – strange things would happen.
One day, sitting in that little barn among the sheep and goats, she looked down at Joshua and it seemed to her that he was slowly changing, right before her eyes. His skin changed color, his hair, and his eyes too. He looked Persian to her, but then he kept shifting and looked Egyptian, and then he slowly changed again and he looked like a newborn version of a man she’d seen when she was a little girl, a sailor who’d come all the way from India. And then he kept changing and changing and he looked like little babies from places that she had never heard of, with skin so much darker, and lighter, and with eyes that were colors she had never seen before: green, gray, even blue like the sky. And she remembered what she had been taught, that everyone in the world is related because all of us are descended from a woman named Naamah who lived a long time ago, whose husband Noah built a boat that saved them and their sons and their sons’ wives.
A few days later, Joseph went to the marketplace to find some food to eat. Soon after he left, Joshua started to change again. She knew that he was a baby boy, but slowly he started to look more and more like a baby girl, and then she started to look like a baby who was both a boy and a girl, and then magical little Joshua began to look like a baby who was neither a girl nor a boy, but something else, someone else, perhaps a baby from a whole other world, Miriam thought, which amazed her, because until that very moment she had never imagined that there might be other worlds somewhere with other people on them.
The next day, with their very last coins, Joseph, who was a carpenter, went into the town to try and find work, leaving Miriam and baby Joshua alone in the barn. Soon after he left, Rachel, the old woman who owned the barn, slipped in with her two older sisters, Hannah and Leah. Rachel had told them about this family of refuges with a newborn baby, and they wanted to help out too. They came with coins and food and a little blanket for the baby, and the four women sat on hay on the barn floor while Miriam rocked her little Joshua in her arms. Then, as they were sitting, Joseph returned, having used their very last coins to buy a tiny loaf of old stale bread, and discovered the wonderful gifts that Hannah and Leah had brought them. So they all ate a little, and prayed their thanks, as Miriam nursed the baby and then handed him to each of the three kind, wise, and generous older women to gently rock and hold.
As Leah was holding little baby Joshua, he looked up at her with his deep dark and amazing eyes, and she looked down at him with her soft sweet gentle eyes, and said, “Surely this is a child of God.” And even though he was only two weeks old, baby Joshua looked up at Leah, then Hannah, Rachel, his father, mother, and said, in perfect Aramaic, the language the five adults were speaking, “We are told that all of us are created in the image of God, and therefore, surely, every single one of us – is a child of God.”
Later Rachel and her sisters told others that story, but no one believed them, especially because Joshua didn’t speak again until he was almost three years old, although till then he did listen quite fluently to everyone talking around him, in Aramaic, Hebrew and the occasional other languages that were sometimes spoken around him. And for years afterwards, even after they were finally able to go home, Joseph and Miriam would tell that story too, but no one believed them either, not for years and years and years.
Today we call the mother of that baby Mary, and we call her baby Jesus, so now you know who I’m talking about, don’t you – you who are a child of God yourself?