Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah. (Matthew 1.16)
Things weren’t too bad actually. I know that when we were having a drink we would complain about the Romans, ‘What have they ever done for us?’ but in fact they’d brought a lot of work to our region. There was a huge amount of redevelopment going on and that meant more money around. If you were good at your trade, and they knew what they wanted, then there was work to be done and if you proved yourself reliable and not a trouble maker then you were almost guaranteed work. Not far away from where I lived was the city of Sepphoris. That was the place where my fiancée, Mary and her parents originated, though they live not far from me in Nazareth now. But since that city was ransacked its being completely rebuilt, the jewel of Galilee, and I’m part of the crew.
Sorry, I should have said, I’m Joseph. If I told you that I was part of the family of King David, that I can trace my line right back to him, you wouldn’t believe me. The work worn hands, the dishevelled look of the working man might make you think that I was pulling your leg. But I’m not – it’s true.
I’ve mentioned that I’m betrothed. It took quite a while to find a wife. Work was taking me away, I had plenty to do, but the years were moving on and I did want a family and whilst I was young enough to enjoy it. I knew this old fellow, Joachim. As I say, he and his wife Anna, came from Sepphoris and I was in the market one day selling a few things I’d made and this old-timer came up and started chatting. When I told him that I was working on the big construction site we became even friendlier – you know how it is with men.
So one thing led to another, I went to theirs for a few meals, all served by their daughter. She was quiet, she was beautiful. I only saw her when she brought the food in, she never looked at me. But she had an air – well, its hard to describe. With some women beauty is on the outside but with her it seemed to be who she is, simply beautiful. I spoke to her father about her. No plans had been made for her marriage and when I said that I would be honoured if he would consider me I was amazed when I wasn’t sent home with a flea in my ear!
That was some months ago. Plans are in hand for the marriage. All was going well, I say was because something unforeseen happened. I was absolutely exhausted. The journeys backwards and forwards to work take their toll, I’m not cut out for commuting! So I’d been fast asleep and all of a sudden I was awake, as awake as you are at midday and the room was filled with light.
It was startling but not frightening. A messenger had arrived – from God – I say it as though it’s an ordinary occurrence, of course it isn’t, but when it was happening it didn’t feel so weird. But what he told me was.
It seems that innocent, beautiful Mary is pregnant! Time stopped for an instance. My world collapsed. What was this joker saying? Mary, who never went out really; Mary, the handmaid? All the options ran through my mind. But before I could say much I was told ‘Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife.’
To here she was pregnant was a shock, to be told the child was God’s child was a bigger shock. But just as Mary brought peace with her, so did this messenger. I accepted the words, I accepted God’s will.
At the moment we’re not in Nazareth, but on our way to Bethlehem, Mary and me. You remember me saying about King David. Well, the Romans want a proper census taken so we’ve all had to head home to our ancestral roots. Thousands of people like us are on the move, north and south, east and wet, and we’re just a few days away from the goal of our journey. Mary’s on the donkey, I’m walking beside her. My feet are as sore as my hands usually are. I don’t know where we’re going to stay when we arrive, I don’t know what’ll happen about the baby, I’m meant to be the breadwinner and the protector of my family and at the moment I feel as lost and unsure as dear Mary must.
I’m trusting, trusting God. When this story is told I bet many a lad will want to play me. Just as long as they show me as solid and dependable, I don’t care what they wear, just as long as they show me as willing to do God’s work, I’m happy.
may I use my hands,
my feet, my mind,
my whole being,
work for you,
whatever that work is.