Herb’s Blog, Herbdate 22601 – 914
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.
Joseph’s First Christmas
Part 2 of 7
After the initial commotion at Mary’s house, wedding preparations begin. She travels to see her elderly cousin and after three months returns with more stories of angels and strange goings-on. The aged Elizabeth is with child, too, much like our mother Sarah, well past the time in her life for such things. Mary said that when she greeted her cousin Elizabeth the babe leaped for joy in her womb. You have always known that the Scriptures teach that all children are created by God for a purpose, but hearing the tale of Zechariah and Elizabeth, the small hairs on the back of your neck stand on end and you feel like weeping, realizing that a great miracle has been done.
The child is to be called by the name of John which means, Grace from God. No one in that family was ever named John, but Zechariah came out of the temple after being struck dumb by an angel, Gabriel as a matter of fact. When the child was born and the eighth day came and he was to be named, Elizabeth called him John. They argued with her but when they asked Zechariah, he wrote on a slate, “His name is John.” Suddenly he was able to speak again and tell of the angelic messenger. Then he began to prophesy about the child being the “prophet of the Highest” and that he would go before the face of theLord.
That was months ago and now Mary is great with child. What next? Just as the question enters your mind, you hear a sound you had hoped you would never hear again. You cannot believe your ears. A horse! Bearing a Roman herald! Here in Nazareth of all places and with a proclamation from the Emperor, the Caesar. “Augustus” he calls himself. They all think so highly of themselves. And not only does the Roman king think he is a god, but since Herod had taken the calculated gamble and allied himself with Augustus and Agrippa in the civil war that had crushed any and all opponents of Caesar, the emperor of Rome rewarded him by calling him the King of Judea.
Herod is a thoroughly vile man who has had two of his own children murdered as well as the wife he doted upon. He was not worthy to be called a Jew, let alone the king of the Jews. Oh, he had made it easier for them to have their own religion, not being forced to say that the Roman Caesar was a god and he had built a beautiful temple, but he was also a completely heartless killer, destroying anyone he thought might get in his way, including an eighty-five-year-old man.
You ponder all this as you watch the herald dismount and unroll the scroll. Whatever this was, it must be big, because this was a real Roman herald, not one of Herod’s men. The herald stands in the middle of the town repeating himself, “All families everywhere in the world shall be registered and taxed in the cities of their origin by the twenty-fifth day of this month.” You groan within yourself. Registration will be done by tribe, clan, household, and family. You think of your poor young wife who is due to be delivered of the child any day, any moment, really and you shake your head. You are both heirs of David, no big thing these days to be sure, but this would mean a trip to Bethlehem, the city of David’s birth.
“Sir,” You speak in Latin, knowing you would likely be ignored if you spoke Hebrew. The word uttered to a Roman makes you want to vomit. You moved here to get away from them, but you also know how to approach them, “The Romans have never required such a thing before, surely his majesty means every male…”
“So, you speak a civilized language, do you? Shall I repeat it for you, then?” He says in Latin. “Let me explain something to you. His majesty means what he says and he says he wants to know every fact of who is who in his realm, where they came from, how much money they have and if they have paid their taxes on it, as if the likes of you deserves an explanation.”
“But sir, my wife is great with child. She is due any time, easily within the next two weeks and we would both have to travel to Bethlehem.”
“Well,” The Roman puts a heavy hand on your shoulder and leans so close to you that you can taste the garlic and wine on his breath, “That’s about a ten-day trip via these mountain sheep-paths you people so cleverly call roads, isn’t it?”
You nod, “Yes sir. An able-bodied man might even make it in seven or less, but my wife…”
“Yes, and you would like me to make an exception for you I suppose? Well, his majesty said that none would be exempt. I had to travel to Gaul to register with a wife, four children, and a mother-in-law. The twenty-fifth is 2 weeks away. I suggest you get going.”
He watches you, to see if you will dare to try to make a scene, but you have witnessed in your life what happens in such a scene. Besides, you realize the futility of arguing further. At least Mary’s parents and many others from the villages around will be traveling with you and among you there are three donkeys, so the women can ride and you will have a pack animal, but what about the baby? Mary has been in pains on and off. Just the night before last they had thought she would give birth. She had regular pains, but they turned out to be false. How would she stand ten days through the mountains? Oh, you’ve often walked into the mountains together, packing a little lunch but she was not nine months with child when you did it.
You sigh within yourself as you think about the last few months and how she has become increasingly uncomfortable and sometimes downright annoying. She can’t stand to sit on the cot, she can’t bear to stand, she snaps at everyone who in the least bit annoys her…You realize, of course, that this is all natural and normal for a woman in her condition and you try to be patient and understanding, but, oy! Traveling to Bethlehem on the back of a donkey? At least her mother will be with you since they are descended from David’s line, too. Your family is all gone and you can’t help but wonder what your parents would have thought. You think back to when you were a child and would hear them praying. You take comfort in the fact that they had faith in God even when there had been no voice from Him, while you have heard from a messenger of the Most High! You realize everything will have to work out somehow, but to travel with a pregnant woman in time to reach Bethlehem by the twenty-fifth…
You can’t try to wait to see if she has the baby because she would still have the purification rituals to complete and be just as incapable of travel in either case. You have to go and you have to go now. You kneel by the little window that faces Jerusalem and pray.
You must take your tools along. You have enough money, really, to make such a trip and provision yourselves adequately, but who knows? Mary will be unclean for forty-four days and there will be many expenses. There always are. If you can make it to Bethlehem you should have enough money saved up to get some physical comfort for Mary, in fact, you can afford to get her a nicer accommodation than she would have if she had the baby here. You have built rooms and guesthouses for a number of the wealthier people in that town so they could have a place for their traveling relatives and even an occasional stranger; surely they would make room in these conditions. Perhaps even a nice midwife to assist her mother with the delivery. Yes and perhaps in a room somewhere that you may have built, would be possible. Your skills could make it so you could stay there in Bethlehem for a while anyway. Perhaps it will work out all right after all. You will have to spend some time down in the Holy City when the child is born so you can make the purification sacrifices and have the child circumcised and dedicated to God. You laugh, wondering if you are being irreverent, but you find that pretty funny. You will present the child to Himself! The Almighty Father has brought laughter and joy to you as he did to your ancestors.
The child will be a visible manifestation of the Invisible One who apparently has some purpose or plan in coming in such a fashion and you feel you must try to raise the child up according to the Law of Moses as well as you can. The Almighty has seen you all of your life and must think you have something of value to pass on to this strange child. You will raise it and treat it as your own unless you are instructed differently by another messenger. This must be done despite the Pharisees and Sadducees who have made a self-righteous, twisted mess out of Moses’ work. The angel had said, “He shall save His people from their sins” but who will save Him from the religious leaders? Well, one problem at a time.
You and Mary’s father pack the asses with the help of some local children and well-wishers. The women come and weep and pray and cry. You have decided to leave immediately, knowing you will be traveling slower than the others from Nazareth. Even though two strong men pushing themselves along could make the trip easily in seven days; two weeks might not be enough time. What if you were late? The Romans had not built their empire on a reputation of kindness and mercy, especially to subjugated peoples. Again you think, “One problem at a time.” Even though you are the butt of many jokes around town, you still have family and friends who will help you out, besides the many outward well-wishers who secretly hope God will punish you along the way for your immorality. You chuckle in spite of yourself at the thought. If only they knew…
Thank you very much. And to you as well.