Herb’s Blog, Herbdate 22600 – 913
Here’s the haps:
In 2007 I originally wrote a series of 4 posts about how I imagined Joseph may have seen things. In 2010 I took it down and fleshed it out to a total of 7chapters. A couple are over 2,000 words and one of them is over 3,000. The first 4 are pretty much the originals and number four is scheduled for Christmas Day. I am going to post the whole 7 chapters this week.
Commercial-mas is almost upon us this year and things are as crazy as ever. Since I grew up in a religion that didn’t believe in any celebrations of any sort, especially Christmas, it is still a really magical time for me. I am constantly filled with awe and wonder at the story of the Creator of the Universe being born among us. Not as a king, but as a common man. I am awed by the practical side of the story, too. I like to imagine different parts of a story as I get ready to teach it to my Sunday School children. The Christmas story is especially fun. You can take every aspect of it and make something special and interesting, and often funny, out of it. I live near the mountains and have had the misfortune to travel up the Interstate From Colorado Springs to Denver. Seventy-five miles does not sound far, but thousands of people live in Denver that work in The Springs and thousands of people that live in The Springs work in Denver and every single one of them is always running late. This is not a fun trip. Then I had another thought.
What if you lived in a time when the best of roads was a dirt path? You do not live in a democracy but under a king. This king issues an edict that everyone should travel back to the town where their ancestors originated from to be counted in a census and properly taxed. You live in a small mountain community and make a living fixing broken chairs and mending chicken coops. Perhaps occasionally you are called upon to build one of the hovels that pass for a house in the village. You might help repair the olive press if it breaks. You are a descendant of the house of the mighty King David, but so what? Who isn’t? It seems that everyone has some link or claim to ascendancy but it really doesn’t matter. There is no royal house anymore; your country has been occupied by the Roman Empire. Perhaps you were sick of life in the big city and dealing with the Romans every day, so you moved north, to a quiet little mountain town where you can have some peace and quiet. Nazareth is 75 miles north of Jerusalem as the crow flies although by trails it is likely 90 or more and then Bethlehem is about another 5 after that, all with a rise in elevation of over thirteen hundred feet, which means something if you have ever hiked in mountains. I personally disagree with the critics who say it could not have been December 25th because of this or that reason, but we really don’t know. My study of the weather there seems to show that it is pretty mild comparatively. A date in spring would be good, too, but the date we have been using for the last 1700 years or so seems fine to me. I know there is no real indication of the time or date, so I picked one, reasoning that the Romans would put some sort of deadline on such a major decree. This fits best in my imaginative telling. One final note, betrothal was second in seriousness only to being married leaving only the consummation to take place. Unlike our immoral modern times being casually “shacked up” was a serious offense and getting “knocked up” could be cause for a public stoning.
Joseph’s First Christmas
Part 1 of 7
You meet a young girl with whom you are greatly enamored and since you are a tradesman, it is no problem arranging a betrothal, especially since she really seems to like you so well. You think about this as you try to figure out what to do about your current situation. Mary has come to you and almost killed you with the shock of your life. She is with child. But even in your devastation at such a horrible turn of events, you must decide what to do. If you were a cruel man it would be easy, but you are not. You really do love this girl, but there is obviously something very wrong with her. She is not right in the head. She has told you this fantastic story about an angel from God, Gabriel himself, no less, appearing to her and saying that the very Spirit of the Almighty Father has created this baby and that she has not been with any other man. Having had time to observe her character in the village as you have and watching how she so scorned any of the village men or boys even when she could not know you were watching her, it just doesn’t add up. You have sent her to her parents’ home so you could think about this and now you wish you couldn’t think. You know her. You know it is impossible for her to have done this thing, but what she is claiming is equally impossible. Why, the child would be the Son of God Himself! The very incarnation of the Invisible and Holy One come to live among men? Ridiculous. Besides, if such a thing could happen, would it not be in the house of one of the religious leaders? What good was this line of thought? Was it not blasphemy to even think of the Almighty coming as a man? And to a poor carpenter and village maiden of all things? Besides, there has not even been a prophet in over 400 years. Sure, there was that thing with Judah Macabee that you have been told about, but a miracle from God was not the same as the voice of God. They needed a prophet, to be sure, but would the LORD of Heaven come to a sinful country like this?
She must be deranged. You wonder if perhaps one of the villagers has done the unspeakable to her. But whom? Surely they knew his great physical strength and besides, there was no one so evil and hateful in the area. But if someone had forced her, would she lose her mind over it? There are only a limited number of ways a woman can get pregnant; you count to yourself, “One, she willingly did it and now feels so bad that her mind has gone or two, someone has forced his way upon her and she cannot deal with it.” Your mind reels at the thought, but she must be put away. You hear in your mind the self-righteous in the town calling for her to be made a public example, but you just can’t imagine it. She was always so sweet and kind. A bill of divorcement or some such legal document must be written to finalize the matter, then perhaps her parents can send her away to somewhere even more remote and maybe her mind will heal in time. Your heart never will. You look down at the tear-stained workbench and just sit and stare out the little window for a while and try to reason with yourself that you were too old to think of marrying anyway. No amount of reasoning can take the hurt away, though.
You walk over to the cot you keep in the workroom and remember how she had just sat there yesterday, watching you work and waiting with a pitcher of cool water she had brought for you. She had gotten some bread and cheese and sat there with you, laughing and joking, enjoying the refreshment of the cool water and the refreshment of her light and loving spirit. You often whiled away whole afternoons talking and laughing with her and getting behind in your work and making it up later. You cannot even think of a time before you met her. You can barely remember how gray and dull every day was, how you had no one to talk to who cared one whit for you. You sit on that same cot now, thinking about how you loved her so much…
Laying there, staring at the ceiling, you firmly make up your mind that no matter what; the thing must be done privately. That settled, you decide to close your eyes for a moment and feel the burning inside your lids. That’s when you hear a voice, an unearthly voice of great power and authority; and there is a mighty angel right there with you! One of the messengers of the Most High has come to you! Gabriel, perhaps?
“Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.”
The angel disappears in the blink of an eye, but now you know. You know. You felt the Very Power Itself in the room as the angel spoke the words. Even as you fly out the door and race down the street to Mary’s parents’ house, you tremble with reverence and awe at the idea – and the Name. Jah Oshea, Joshua, The Lord who saves! Thou shalt call his name Jesus! God With Us as our savior! Saving us from our sins!
The door is opened by a very angry-looking woman, Mary’s mother. Her father is sitting there in his chair giving you a hard stare. You know these people and you know he has told his wife, “You talk to him or I will.”
“Joseph!” She does not swing the door open with the giant smile as she usually does. You are in for it. “Joseph, I demand to know what is going on! Mary came home, ran into her room and started crying and won’t stop and won’t tell a soul what is wrong! What have you done to my Mary?”
You swallow hard. These are people that have always liked you, loved you, really. “I…uh…,” You stammer, “I must speak with Mary and you both right away.”
A manly, furious voice from within, “Oh you have some speaking to do, alright!”
“Please ask Mary to come in, too,” you say as you enter the door. Your eyes meet Mary’s and she sees your demeanor and smiles at you. You smile back and suddenly know that it will not only be all right, but you know how to deal with this part anyway. As her parents see the smiles, they suddenly become more curious than angry.
“Well,” her father is always direct and to the point, “What is going on here?”
You take a deep breath and being an equally direct man, you look him in the eyes, knowing the conclusion they will jump to since there has only ever been one way in life it has ever happened, and say, “The wedding must be immediately. Mary is with child.”