He stopped at the entrance and began pounding on the door.
“Heli! Heli! I must speak to Mary!” He continued to hammer on the door. “Mary – I must speak to you!”
Presently he heard a movement inside the house and someone opened the door a crack.
It was Mary.
Joseph flung the door open and grabbed Mary by the shoulders, holding her at arms length.
“Mary I have had a dream!” his voice was loud with excitement. “An angel came to me in a dream – he told me what has happened – I understand!”
Mary’s mouth dropped open and she suddenly embraced Joseph, her body shuddering as she began to weep. Joseph stood a moment with his hands spread wide as if in surrender and then he slowly, tenderly, put his arms around the sobbing girl and held her tight.
Before they parted there at the threshold of Heli’s house, Joseph had told Mary that he intended to complete the legal matters of their marriage in the morning.
And sure enough, before the sun had gone down the next day, Mary had moved into the home of Joseph as his wife. She was surprised to see that he had prepared a bed for her in a small room by herself until he informed her that the angel had indicated to him that he should do so until the birth of the child.
In the months that followed Joseph learned the meaning of strength and courage. For some reason he had thought that the town’s people would believe his story and the story of Mary’s angelic visit as well. Instead, he found that he had become the butt of an ongoing joke. When he passed through the market-place, he could see the rabble of the town mock him with their coarse jesting. They would flap their arms and hoot at him, calling out to him with an “angelic message” of their own.
It was worse for Mary. She didn’t have to endure open ridicule in the marketplace yet the women of the town were no less relentless in showing their scorn for a girl they considered morally suspect. Hence, for Joseph and Mary, the Emperor’s enrollment came as a relief rather than a burden.
According to the decree published throughout the Roman world, every man was to return to his ancestral home to be registered by family and name and to sign an oath of allegiance to Caesar Augustus proclaiming Caesar to be the Father of the country. As distasteful as the enrollment was, it meant that the two of them would be able to escape the gossip of Nazareth. Although Joseph was not required to take his family with him, he determined to use the enrollment as an excuse to leave Nazareth and set up shop in Bethlehem.
And so, not long after the enrollment was announced, Joseph sold his possessions in Nazareth loaded their basic necessities on the back of a donkey and set out on the seventy-mile walk to Bethlehem with the heavily pregnant Mary in tow.
They had been able to join with a large group of travelers who passed by on their way to Jerusalem. Joseph found that there were many people like himself who had left their ancestral home for one reason or another. Usually it was to escape a bad situation and Joseph thought it ironic that he was the unusual one since he was returning to his ancestral home for that very reason.
After only a day of travel it became clear that Mary would not be able to keep pace with the larger group for long. Joseph decided that he and his wife would drop out of the throng. He wished that he were wealthy enough to purchase a second and a third donkey so that he and Mary could ride, but that was out of the question. Hence he had no choice but to risk the dangers of traveling alone.
Source: The Christmas Season: Stories For Each Week Of Advent And Christmas Eve available at Amazon.com.