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Nathaniel opened his eyes with a start. Old Nicodemus, the family servant was shaking him saying, “Wake up, wake up, little Master. It’s very late.” Nathaniel jumped out of bed pulling on his tunic and sandals saying, “How could I have overslept today of all days.”
He splashed water on his face from the basin old Nicodemus was holding, and raced to the kitchen. Nathaniel slid into place at the breakfast table where his father and mother, and younger sister Miriam were just finishing their breakfast.
Miriam looked up from her bowl, and laughed at Nathaniel. “We thought you were going to be left behind,” she said to him teasingly. “I’ve been awake since sun-up,” Nathaniel said sheepishly as he looked out the kitchen window. Outside in the court yard the household servants were loading father’s donkeys with bundles of clothes and baskets of food for the journey.
It was going to be a wonderful trip. Nathaniel and Miriam, and their parents and servants, and Nathaniel’s aunts and uncles and cousins, and others from their town in Galilee were going on a long trip southward through the hilly country to a town in Judea called Bethlehem.
The emperor Caesar Augustus, had passed a law saying that a census should be taken of the whole world. Everyone had to return to the city their family was from to be counted. Nathaniel’s father was of the family of David so they were starting the journey today to their home town of Bethlehem.
Everyone from the town in Galilee who was going to Bethlehem was meeting at the market place to form a large caravan for the trip.
Uncle Shamus was the leader of the caravan. He was a blustering man with a long fluffy beard who waved his arms when he talked. Uncle Shamus poked his head in the kitchen window and said, “You had better hurry if we are going to get started today.”
Nathaniel and his sister Miriam finished their breakfast, and after being excused from the table, ran outside to watch the servants loading the last of the provisions onto the donkeys.
There was an excitement in the morning air. The servants tied on the last of the bundles, and the donkeys were packed. Father and mother, and Nathaniel and Miriam set off for the marketplace to gather with their relatives and friends. Nathaniel was surprised to see so many people, donkeys and camels gathered in the market place. It seemed practically the whole town was going.
Uncle Shamus made a speech with much arm waving, and asked a blessing for the journey. Then he gave the command and the caravan started off down the path toward Bethlehem. It was such a colorful sight. Everyone had on their best clothing. The bells on the bridles of father’s donkeys jingled as they walked in single file along the path.
Someone began playing a flute, and someone else a tambourine. They all joined in a lively song. Nathaniel and Miriam ran alongside the caravan laughing and playing with their cousins. This was the first time Nathaniel and Miriam had been on such a journey. They were eager to see the world outside their town in Galilee, and to meet their relatives in Bethlehem.
It was a beautiful day. As the caravan made its way southward they passed many other caravans each going to their hometowns. People greeted each other, asking what towns they were going to. The children laughed and played, racing in and out of the procession.