At one point in time, all I wanted to be was a good carpenter and loving husband/father of a large brood of happy kids. Now I am part of something so big, I shiver just to think about it.
I am Joseph, husband to the lovely Mary. I am writing this in Egypt , where we fled to protect the Son of Mary, an infant by the name of Jesus. The events that have occurred so far are so dramatic; I felt I had to write them down.
Mary and I became betrothed a little over two years ago. The next thing I knew, she was pregnant and telling me a fantastic story about an angel and his message to her.
I was heart broken. I love Mary, but this is not an easy issue to deal with. I also felt betrayed, as I found her wild tale of angels and Messiahs hard to believe. I went to bed, after sadly concluding I would have to quietly divorce her. I couldn’t let them kill her, but still…
That night, I had a dream. The same angel came to me and told me that Mary was right, that she was indeed carrying the Son of the Most High God. I should not be afraid to take her as my wife, but she was to remain a virgin until the baby was born. The angel even told me what to call the baby. Jesus.
In order to allow me to make my decision without her around, her mother sent her to visit her ancient aunt. Even we in Nazareth knew that Mary’s aunt had never had a child. Some felt it was due to some overwhelming evil, but most of us were more tolerant. These things happened sometimes.
When I indicated that I would still have Mary, she came home. She was glowing with beauty, even though the pregnancy was already showing. She had a letter from her aunt, telling her sister about the new baby, named John.
Towards the end of her pregnancy, we had a decree that we’d have to go to Bethlehem to register. Well, I had to go, Mary could have stayed behind, but she wouldn’t do it. No matter how impractical the whole idea was, she was firm about it.
As expected, when we got to the City of David , it was crowded. No, that is an understatement so great it is almost a lie. Picture it, wall to wall people, animals and tax collectors.
To add insult to injury, Mary went into labor, there on the street. I was panicky. I didn’t know what to do. I knocked on the door of the only inn available and was met by a harried woman who curtly said there was no room. However, she found it rather difficult to slam the door in my face as my foot was in it.
She looked from me to Mary, just as my poor wife was doubled up from a contraction. Her face softened and she told me to go around back. There was a sort of stable there, and clean hay. It was the best she could do.
Believe me, in that crowd, the stable was a welcome sight. Yeah, it stank, and it was full of animals cautiously watching what was going on, but it felt almost like a palace after worrying that the Baby would be born in the street.
Around midnight, the innkeeper’s wife came out to assist us. She checked Mary and gave us both a strange look. “She’s a virgin, how can she be giving birth?” she demanded.
Just then, she had to get busy, as the Baby was being born. Despite the pain and exertion, Mary remained calm and tried hard not to scream. Personally, I was ready to do that job for her. I had no idea childbirth was like that.
It took another half hour to get the new mother and Baby comfortable. Just as Mary laid the Boy in the manger, a bunch of even smellier shepherds came pounding up to the stable.
“Where is He!” they demanded. “Where is the Savior that has been born to us this evening?”
“Shh,” the woman said, trying to shoo them out the door. “He has just been born and He and His mother are resting.”
“You don’t understand,” the lead shepherd said in a quieter voice. “We were up in the hills and this angel came down to tell us the Good News. He said that ‘Unto us was born this day a Savior who is Christ the Lord.
“The angel told us to come here and even that He’d be lying in a manger. Then the whole sky was filled with them. The most awesome music came from their mouths.
“We had to come!”
The innkeeper looked at me and I shrugged. We led them in to where Mary was resting beside the manger. They knelt down and actually worshiped our new born Son. That was incredible.
The next thing that happened was eight days later. Bethlehem is only six miles from Jerusalem , and there were various rituals that had to be performed, both for Mary and for Jesus. It was a long walk for Mary, and when we got there I let her sit down in the shade to rest while I bought the appropriate sacrifices.
Just as I was returning, a man came up to Mary. I hurried to her side, as she seemed a bit taken aback by being approached by a stranger.
“May I see the Child,” he asked politely.
Mary nodded and unwrapped the blanket. The man looked at her and asked if she knew who this Child was. She nodded. When he reached for the Baby, she allowed him to hold her Son.
“Oh, Lord, You can let your servant go in peace, for I have indeed seen the salvation of Your people, Israel , just as You promised.”
He looked at my wife and said more quietly, “and a sword will pierce your heart.” We looked at him quizzically, but he turned and shuffled off.
We didn’t really have time to recover from that unsettling interview before a new person came up demanding to see the Child. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a woman as old as this one was. Her voice was the squeaky kind the very old can develop, but she seemed full of life.
“I want to see the Baby!” she demanded again.
With a look of bemusement, Mary turned the now wide awake Boy towards her. She nodded and clapped her hands.
“I have prayed and prayed for this Child to come. I have fasted and spent hours on my knees in the Temple asking God to send the One who would save us all. Now I can go home. I shall have a meal, and then lay down on my bed. I can die in peace now.”
That was the second time in less than five minutes someone from the Temple had said that Mary’s Son was the salvation of His people. Mary was trembling, and I don’t think it was because she was tired. She was scared.
We performed our duties, then took the long walk back to Bethlehem . I don’t think she was looking forward to our next trip into the Holy City for her cleansing rights.
All went well as we waited for that time. The innkeeper had been kind enough to find us a small house to use while we waited. After the census, Bethlehem returned to its usual quiet state and there was space. I even did a bit of carpentry work to keep us in food.
That was why we didn’t leave right after her purification. Thankfully that went well, but it wasn’t the last part of a rather long string of amazing events. More were to follow.
I had just came out of the shop for a bit of lunch when there was a hew and cry out on the main street. I looked up and saw a procession of what looked like Eastern royalty regally riding down the tiny, dirt street. To my shock, they stopped in front of MY door.
I quickly ran so as to be with Mary when they knocked. I went in the back way; there was absolutely no way I could have gone in by the front door, it was blocked by well dressed men, servants and a lot of camels. I got to her just as she cracked the door open.
It turns out that these men were Magi, or magicians. They knew the path of the stars. When a strange new star appeared and seemed to be moving in an unusual way, they figured out that a special King had been born, and they had come to worship our little Baby.
To our astonishment, they presented Jesus with a chest of gold, and jars of frankincense and myrrh. We didn’t know what to say, but they were insistent that these gifts would be welcome and needed. Within half an hour, they left.
This next bit is how we got to Egypt . You’d think that would be the last place a devout Jew would go, after all Egypt held our people as slaves for centuries. God worked great and powerful miracles that got our people out of there and to our own country, but that’s where we got sent.
That’s the right word, sent. I’m not sure why I get all of this information from dreams, but by now I didn’t even think to question them. In a dream, I was told to get up right then, and take both Mary and the Baby to Egypt . Men were coming that wanted to kill Him, and very soon.
I did as instructed, though Mary was a bit bewildered. I told her I’d explain on the road. When we’d gotten far away from Jerusalem , I stopped briefly to explain about the dream. We would have to use some of that gold given to us by the Magi. Egypt was a long way away, and we’d need transportation.
We’ve been here a few months now. I heard that the very day we left, soldiers from Herod had gone into Bethlehem and slaughtered all the male children two and under. Our Child would have been one of them if we hadn’t followed the orders in the dream.
Hopefully, we will be called home soon. We haven’t had to use much of the gold, as I have practiced my trade and I’m pretty good at it. Mary and I are just homesick for our own land and people.