Joseph, The Untold Story (part 2)

A Father's Christmas Story

by Edward Langenback

© 12/09/03

Where was I? Oh, yes, My wife had just given birth to the Son of the Most High God.

At first Mary and I were alone, quietly marveling at what God had done this day. The impact had only begun to hit us. We both knew that we faced a major responsibility. Raising a child, any child, is no small thing. There are many people in this world that are better off without sons and daughters, and some children would be better of with no parents rather than the ones they have. This situation was more than just a little different. Here we were faced with having to raise a child that we both knew full well was The Almighty Himself in the flesh. How would we do this? Would we have to teach the child anything? Or would he already know everything? I couldn't even begin to imagine for example, having to discipline the child, nor what would happen if I did. Would it be death to touch such a one as this? Or would my hand simply rot and fall off if I raised it against him? Yet despite these thoughts, I knew that regardless of whatever else he was, he was just as much a child as I had been.

Mary and I had a little while to think about these things and more before we heard a noise at the stable entrance. "Who's there?" I called out. "The man who's stable you're using." Came the somewhat gruff and harried sounding reply. "I finally had a few moments peace and came out to see if everything was all right. I wanted to let you know that there's a midwife who lives close by and if you think you're going to need her tonight I'll send one of my boys to get her." "Actually sir, we'll not be needing the midwife, My wife gave birth to a healthy baby boy a little while ago." I told him as I motioned in the direction of Mary and the baby. He proceeded to offer congratulations, marveling somewhat that we hadn't sent for a midwife. I explained that there simply hadn't been time and thanked him for his concern. He looked at the baby for a moment before he left. I saw the man's surprise as his eyes met the child's. He held the gaze for a few seconds and then shook his head and quietly left, visibly shaken.

I knew what he had felt when looking into those eyes. That they belonged to a baby made no difference to the fact that they could see right through you into your very soul. To stand in that gaze was to stand naked and defenseless before power incomprehensible and love unimaginable. No wonder he had turned his head away after only a few short seconds, not many could withstand a look so loving and yet at the same time so knowing.

As the confused and somewhat frightened innkeeper left I knew that we weren't going to be able to stay here much past tonight, he was entirely too unnerved. I settled next to Mary by the manger we had laid the child in. "Tomorrow I'll get us a proper house." I said. "Now that I'm not racing the baby into the world, I'll have time to look around for more than just a room at an inn." We both knew that there was no way we would be returning to Nazareth any time soon. You just didn't travel with a baby unless you had to. Mary was already making plans to set up housekeeping and settle in to her new role of mother. Travel was the last thing on her mind, or mine for that matter.

At the sound of heavy breathing I looked up to see some shepherds at the stable entry, panting and breathless from running. "Can I help you?" I asked, wondering what shepherds would possibly be doing here in the city when they had flocks to tend out in the fields. "May we see Him?" one asked in a hushed voice as he motioned in the direction of the child and his mother. "Certainly." I replied, "Only tell me, how is it that you seek the child? Who brought you word in the fields that he is born?" Once again I was amazed at our God and His love when the oldest of three brothers told the tale.

"We were in the field tending our flock like you thought when suddenly standing before us was an Angel of The Lord. He was a mighty warrior and he shined all around with the light of God's glory. We were afraid at first that we had sinned and were about to be judged when the angel spoke. In the clearest, most beautiful voice any of us has ever heard he told us not to be afraid, because he was bringing us good news of great joy which would belong to all people. He said: 'Because to you is born this day a deliverer which is Anointed The Lord.' The angel told us that as a sign we would find the baby lying in a manger wrapped in swaddling clothes.

Suddenly it seemed like the whole army of heaven was there praising God and saying: Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those who have his good will! We watched and listened as the angels rose into heaven. When they had gone, we talked about it for a few minutes and decided that we just had to see what the angel was talking about. So we left the flock and ran all the way into town, looking in every stable we could find along the way until we found you and your wife here with this child." Once again I was left speechless at the thought of what the Lord was doing.

The next several days were busy. I had to buy a house. Staying in the stable is something that anyone might do for one night when there is no room anywhere else, but I had no intention of my wife sleeping in a stable for one minute longer than she absolutely had to. Not only that but it was autumn and the weather would start turning cooler soon as winter approached. As I found a suitable house with room for a shop and arranging for my tools to be brought from Nazareth, Mary proved herself to be the original devoted mother.

How she found the time I am still not sure, but she managed to get the house in order and looking like a home in a few days. She spent time meeting and getting to know the neighbors and townsfolk. She went on a tour of all the local merchants inspecting wares of all kinds from grain and meat to milk, curtains, clothes and anything a new mother could possibly need for her baby. Sometimes it seemed to me that she was busier with the house and child than I was getting my shop in order and drumming up business.

Mind you in doing all this she was not allowed more than talking from a distance and pointing to show workers and delivery boys where to put things and what to do. I know you kids these days don't think of things like this anymore, but back then certain things meant that you were unclean and childbirth was one of them. Being unclean meant serious restrictions on going places, touching people and hallowed things, and handling certain personal matters.

As the Eighth day since the boy's birth dawned we were up early, preparing. Today was the day he would be circumcised, bringing him into the covenant of Abraham. Everybody was excited because this was also when he would also be officially named. You know how that is, everybody has their favorite name and every reason why you should name your new son after their great-uncle Jacob or something like that. I had decided to let everyone have their fun and suggest any name they wanted to. It didn't matter to me. I knew what the child's name would be.

It seemed like so long ago, and yet was so fresh in my mind like it had happened that morning. The dream of an angel coming to meet with me where I was working in my father's shop. The angel had reassured me that it would be ok for me to wed Mary, because the child she carried was not the result of any indiscretion on her part as I had supposed. He told me that the Holy Spirit had caused her to become pregnant, and that the child was to be named Yeshua, which means "Yahweh is Salvation". A few people tried to get me to change my mind, but I didn't give in and the boy was given the name the angel said was his.

Once the circumcision was done and the child named, Mary still had thirty three days of purification. During this time she would still have restrictions on where she could go, touching hallowed things, entering the sanctuary and limits on physical contact with other people. This time passed quickly. Mary was busy with the baby and getting settled into our new home while I was occupied with plenty of work. Almost before we knew it, her time of purification was nearing an end and we were packing for a trip to Jerusalem. She was now required to bring a burnt offering and a sin offering after which she would no longer be unclean. At the same time the child would be presented to the Lord as the law of Moses required of firstborn males. Most folks would tend to these things with the local priest but considering whom we knew the child to be, we felt that only the temple in Jerusalem would be good enough.

We arrived in Jerusalem the morning of Mary's thirty third day and made our way to the temple and gave the offerings that were required. This done, her purification was completed and she was no longer under those restrictions. We went into the temple's outer court to present the child to the Lord. Inside, a man came up to us and asked us if we were there to present our son. "Yes." I replied. "May I hold him?" he asked, Mary nodded and held the child out to the man. As I watched this stranger take the baby in his arms I saw his face filled with wonder as he gave thanks to God. "Now Lord, you have kept your promise, and you may let your servant go in peace. With my own eyes I have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples: A light to reveal your will to the Gentiles and bring glory to your people Israel."

We were amazed at the things this man said about the child. Once again I wondered what was it that God was doing? How did ordinary people like Mary and I find ourselves in the midst of such miracles? What would happen next? He blessed us and said to Mary, "Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which will be spoken against; (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed." We barely had time to think about this when an old woman came in giving thanks to God. She spoke to a person near her. "You're anticipating Israel's redemption aren't you? Well, Here He is, Israel's redemption is here. He's finally arrived! You don't need to wait any longer!"

It didn't take very long for both of us to feel somewhat overwhelmed. The man who had first spoken about the child saw this and motioned us to come with him. He led us away from the curious and out of the temple. Once outside, he stopped in a spot that was away from the flow of people. "My name is Simeon." He began, "The Spirit of the Lord once revealed to me that I would not see death until I had seen with my own eyes His Anointed One. Then recently I began to hear rumors about the birth of a king that was announced by an angel to some shepherds outside Bethlehem. Now I have seen even as the Holy Spirit told me and I am blessed beyond my dreams. One thing I must ask however, what do you know about your child?"

Now there was a question that I would likely spend the rest of my life thinking about! "We know that she conceived by the power of the Most High, even though she has never lain with a man she became pregnant. At first I found this hard to believe, then in a dream an angel appeared to me and reassured me that I should not hesitate to take her as my wife. He also told me the child was to be given the name Yeshua." At the mention of that name Simeon nodded sagely, his eyes bright and knowing. "A perfect name for such a child as this." He said. "Beyond that," I continued. "I can say that I have looked into this child's eyes, and in so doing I have beheld the Almighty Himself. I do not understand all of what the Lord is doing, but it is going to be bigger I think than anything He has done yet." Simeon answered "Yes, His love for all will be made clear in what He is doing now."

With that, he bid us farewell and with a last look at the child, he returned to the temple. Our own business concluded, we went to find an inn where we could rest before returning to Bethlehem.

Click here for Part 1