I was born in Bethlehem Ephrata, the City of David where he was crowned king of Israel. He is my ancestor through the patriarchs Judah, Jacob, Isaac and Abraham. At the time when I was alive on earth all the descendants of Judah were under occupation and domination by the Roman Empire.
Our family relocated to Nazareth, a little over one hundred miles north, through Jerusalem. The population of Nazareth was three times larger than Bethlehem's; a bustling city with more opportunity. I was naturally gifted with mechanical aptitude. I could tinker, repair, and build things. In time I established myself as a successful carpenter. When I did, I decided it was time for me to take a wife and begin a family of my own.
I sought out a matchmaker to find me a suitable maiden. An older couple, Joachim and his wife Anne, were parents to a lovely young woman of fourteen years. She was called Miriam in Hebrew, Mariam in Aramaic, or Mary in English as you know her. After meetings with her father we concluded a marriage contract which would be fulfilled when she turned sixteen years of age. Near the end of the betrothal period Joachim summoned me for a private meeting.
He was downcast and troubled. Joachim told me his daughter Mary had made a journey to visit her cousin Elizabeth. She was gone for three months. Reluctantly, he advised me that when his virgin daughter returned from her visit she was found to be with child. They did not know who was responsible. He said she claimed an angel of the Lord had come to her and told her God's desire that she bear a special child, a son, who would save His people. Joachim said he understood this development released me from the marriage contract. I was devastated. Nearly two years had I waited to take Mary to be my wife.
In the days that followed I pondered what to do. I did not want to cause her parents more pain than they already had experienced. I decided to quietly divorce her, to end the betrothal, for we had not lived and slept together yet. She would be sent away to save her family further disgrace.
As I slept that night I was half awakened from a dream to see a ghostly intruder in my room. He said to me, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins."
I awoke knowing with certainty that I had received a mandate from God, therefore I proceeded to take Mary to be my wife. People engaged in much gossip of course. The assumption was that I had impregnated Mary during our engagement instead of waiting until our marriage. It did not trouble me for I knew the truth.
Near the end of her pregnancy the emperor decreed every man go to the city of his birth and be registered and counted. Emperors, potentates and dictators always want to know how many people they have under their thumb. Caesar was no different.
This was a very inconvenient time for us to do this, Mary being heavy with the child, but it would not do to defy the government. I purchased a strong young ass and we set out to walk the hundred miles down to Bethlehem. The journey was arduous to say the least. Though we rested at night along the way, the jostling of her body while riding the ass worried me that the time of her delivery might come in the middle of nowhere.
At last we arrived, exhausted, but safely, in Bethlehem, only to discover there was no room at the inn. I pleaded with the innkeeper, telling him my wife was pregnant and could deliver at any time. He said he could do nothing for us. The entire town was filled with visitors come home to register. After a bit He said, "I don't have even a tent you can use. All are taken. The best I can do is let you sleep in the stable until something becomes available."
It saddened me deeply that I could not provide better for my wife but gladly accepted this hospitality. We made ourselves as comfortable as we could on beds of hay. In late afternoon Mary began to moan with the onset of contractions. In a panic I went to the innkeeper and asked for help. I didn't know how to assist at a birth. He summoned a midwife and her helper. They stayed with Mary into the evening. I heard a shout of joy from one of them, "It's a beautiful baby boy!"
I thanked God that Mary was young and strong and awake enough to hold the baby against her breast. She wrapped him in cloth we had carried as a precaution. There were feed troughs in the stable. I commandeered one and placed it next to where she lay. I told her of my encounter with the angel of the Lord and the command that the child must be named Yeshuah, which is iEsoun in Greek and in English known to you as Jesus. The first Yeshuah, Joshua son of Nun, led God's people out of the wilderness into the Promised Land. This Yeshuah came to lead God's people into the kingdom of God.
This wonderful child spent the first night his life sleeping in a feed trough. The animals in the barn each came near for a moment and stared steadily at the babe as if they knew who he was. Before the night was over some shepherds showed up. They had searched us out to see for themselves the great thing that had happened.
They told us they had been tending their flocks when they were frightened out of their wits by the appearance of an angel. The angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.
After the angel delivered this stunning news, a large host of angels appeared and sang out, "Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased." The shepherds agreed among themselves to immediately go up to Bethlehem and find this child. They repeated their story as people, especially women, from the inn came out to see the newborn child. All were amazed as was I.
A week later, eight days actually, we abided by the Law of Moses and carried the babe to Jerusalem and presented him at the temple to be circumcised. An old man, whose name was Simeon, came into the temple. His face was aglow. He asked to hold the baby for a moment. Mary, moved by the Spirit, allowed this. Simeon then proclaimed, "For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel."
As if that were not enough, a widow named Anna, a prophetess who stayed in the temple fasting and praying day after day, came up to us and she gave thanks to God. She spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
Wonder of wonders, a few days after the circumcision, while we still sojourned in Bethlehem, we were visited by three kings from the east. They had traveled a great distance with their entourages of hundreds, servants, flocks and herds, searching for the child foretold in the scriptures. They were stargazers and philosophers who had identified a unique star which led them to us. They brought him costly gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. They hailed him as the newborn king of the Jews.
The night after they departed, the angel appeared once again to me and said, "Get up. "Take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him." I obeyed and we fled across the border beyond Herod's reach.
I did not live on earth long enough to witness the Lord's begotten Son perform His miraculous works. But that is okay. I have seen them from afar in the Spirit. At the time I felt misused by the God I trusted and served. Fearfully, I trusted Him anyway. Now I see what an unparalleled honor He bestowed on me, a simple carpenter, by allowing me to be the human father of His Divine Son. To be present at the incarnation of Christ in human form, exceeds all the possible joys on earth.
Merry Christmas to all.
Written by © Wayne Hepburn, December 2012
Based on the Gospels of Matthew chapters 1 &2 and Luke chapters 1 & 2.