The following is an excerpt from one of the stories in The Christmas Season: Stories for Each Week of Advent and Christmas Eve, available at Amazon.com.
Joseph carefully pulled the draw knife across the section of wood. He was careful in all his work. It was the reason that he had made a success of his carpentry business. It was even more important now, he thought, to be careful, to be successful – now that he was soon to wed Mary.
He paused and straightened from the work bench and gazed out the open door of his shop. Mary had been gone for three months now. He was unsure why she had so suddenly decided to visit her cousin in the hill country of Judea. It was not a trip one undertook on a whim. Yes, she had said that Elizabeth was pregnant – but how did she know that? Her cousin Elizabeth was an old woman and as far as he knew, no word had come to their village concerning her. At least not until after Mary had left.
Joseph placed the knife on the work bench and stepped to the water jug hanging near the door. He pulled the cork and took a long swallow. He really didn’t like to think about Mary’s leaving; she had claimed that she had been visited by an angel who told her about Elizabeth’s pregnancy. Joseph knew Mary to be a godly young woman, but he was worried about her. Before she had left, she had hinted that there was more – much more – that the angel had said. However, when Joseph pressed her for details, she had told him that he would have to wait until her return. Joseph was about to demand that she tell him all, but there had been a check in his spirit and an uncanny sentience had remained with him ever since. At times he chalked the whole episode up to Mary’s headstrong nature. It was well known in their town that she was spirited – very pious and very outspoken – for a girl. Her Father was pleased that a mature man like Joseph had taken an interest in her. Most young men married in their teens, but Joseph was almost thirty years old – nearly as old as Mary’s Father. And Mary’s Father was sure that the quiet, capable Joseph would be able to curb his daughter’s more headstrong tendencies.
Joseph hung the water jug back on the peg near the door and wiped his hands on his carpenter’s apron. He watched as the town gossip made his way across the market square toward his shop. He assumed that the man’s destination was somewhere other than his work place; as a rule Joseph had nothing to do with Abijah. Thus he was surprised when the dark man with darting eyes strode directly up to the carpenter’s workshop.
“Greetings brother Joseph.”
Joseph remained silent.
“I’m sure that you have heard the news.”
Abijah cocked his head to one side as he spoke, his hands pressed together before him in a posture of deference. Joseph looked at the man a moment and then turned back to his workbench, placing the table between him and the gossip. He took up the draw-knife and returned to work before speaking.
“I have no interest in hearing any news that you might bring, Abijah.”
“Ah, but I beg to differ, oh pious Joseph.” The man’s voice dripped with scorn. “You see, I have news about your betrothed – about Mary.” He pressed up to the workbench
Joseph quickly raised his head. “It is not fitting for one such as you to even pronounce her name. Be
gone from my shop or I – “
“Joseph, Joseph – why so unkind to one who merely wishes to share your sorrow?” He cocked his head to the other side and folded his hands in an attitude of prayer.
Joseph’s eye’s narrowed. “Sorrow?”
“Why yes, Joseph. You see, Mary has returned – and – she – is – pregnant.”
(To be continued.)
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