Creighton University's Online Ministries
Matthew 1: 18-19
My little boy. You are such a delight in my life with your tiny hands, your beautiful dark eyes and a cry so loud it makes your mother and I laugh with surprise sometimes. I hold you now curled up so peacefully against my shoulder and I marvel at the months we have had. What a beginning it was for our little family - the long journey to Bethlehem, your mother's birth pains beginning and finding a place for you to be born. Before we left home I had already built a wonderful, new cradle for you, but you decided to come while we were traveling! What a wondrous night that was.
In such a short time, we have become a family. I can hardly imagine a life before you and your mother. This morning when my beloved Mary was leaving for the well, I protested saying I couldn't bear to see you both leave at the same time, so she smiled with that look she has and left you here with me.
Yes, I am a carpenter, but I am also a storyteller, my son, as my father was and my grandfather before him. I will tell you many stories in your life, but none that fill me with awe as this one does: When it was arranged that I should become betrothed to Mary, I was filled with happiness. Your mother was known in the town as a devout and pious young woman who lived a life according to the laws of the temple. But what I also knew is that she has always been full of life and music. For many years I walked past her father's house on the way to the synagogue, and I often heard her voice coming through the windows as she sang loudly and full of joy. Songs of the ancestors, songs of praise from the Psalms or sometimes I heard her making up songs as she does now around our house. No one could have asked for a more perfect wife and in the weeks after our betrothal, my heart was filled with praise and gratitude for the Father.
But it all changed one day when Mary came to my shop as I worked. I could see by the expression on her face that something was different. "Joseph," she said, I must tell you something that will be difficult for you to understand. I do not understand it myself, but I feel a great peace about it."
I drew her to the chairs in the corner of the shop and stretched out my hands to hold hers. "Mary, beloved, whatever it is, nothing you say can change my love for you." She looked at me with the same dark, piercing eyes I see in your face and tightened her grip in my hands. "Joseph, I am with child. I cannot say how it happened. I can only tell you that Gabriel, a messenger from the Lord, appeared to me and told me I would conceive a son. He said this son would be great and would be called Son of the Most High."
My head was dizzy and my heart felt empty and afraid. What was she saying? Mary was with child? But we had not been together as husband and wife. Then who? What was this she was saying? How could this be? I looked at her and could not speak.
"Joseph," she said again. "I know this is difficult. I myself can only believe in it because it came from God."
Suddenly, what she was saying hit me with great force. "What do you mean?" I exploded. "You are with child?!" I pulled my hands away as I filled with anger. "What of our plans?" I stammered and sputtered, unable to make sense of any of this. Did I not know this "faithful" young woman as I thought? And my reputation! I would be made a fool in the town! As I imagined the weeks and months ahead, my face burned with shame for her and for myself.
I looked at Mary in anger. But she sat quietly and her face seemed more peaceful than I could have imagined it. I looked into those wonderful eyes and they were filled only with a faithful contentment. "You are with child! Whose child??!!" I demanded.
She reached for my hands again but I shook them away. "Joseph, please hear what I am saying. The messenger said I would be with child through the Holy Spirit. Joseph," she said again, her voice in a whisper, "he said this child would be called holy ... the Son of God!"
"Leave!" was all I could say to her. "Leave me now and do not return," I said harshly. She looked heartbroken but I did not allow myself to feel her pain. She had humiliated me and made me a fool! She arose and walked to the door of the shop where she turned. "I have been with no man, Joseph. I am only the handmaiden of the Lord." She left quietly.
I could not work that day. I left my shop and walked for hours out beyond the edge of the date groves, kicking the dusty road ahead of me. I searched for comfort from the Psalms that flooded my heart.
I wept and walked and spent the day in prayer, begging God for some answer to all of this. I needed guidance. By the time it grew dark, I was tired and had made my decision. I would divorce her. I would do it quietly so she would not be stoned as the law called for, but she would not be my wife. I returned home in great sadness. I could not eat but only fell on my mat in exhaustion.
It was while I was sleeping that it happened. I often have dreams and I know that messengers from the Lord sometimes come to me in the night. That night as I slept, a messenger came to me. "Joseph, you must believe Mary," he said. "Your fears must not keep you from hearing this message from the Lord. Do not be afraid to take Mary, your wife, into your home. As she has told you, it is through the Holy Spirit that she has conceived and a son will be born, a son who will save his people from their sins."
I remember no more until the sun filled my room. When I awoke my heart felt great peace but it took me a moment to remember all that had happened since yesterday. I sat up suddenly. Mary! I must find Mary. I praised the Lord as I hurried through the town looking for Mary. She was in the back garden of her father's house, sitting quietly.
"Mary!" I called. She turned and gave me a beaming smile. "I knew you would come!" she said. "When I left your house yesterday I turned to the Lord again and asked that he send me help, some support in this difficult journey. Yet in my heart, Joseph, I knew it was to be you. Thank you for believing me."
I was ashamed as I told her the truth - I had not believed her but the Lord had sent me a messenger, too. He had repeated what Mary said. It was to be the Messiah! And Mary and I were to be with this long-awaited child on this earth. There was fear at the edges of my heart as I thought of this life, but I remembered that the angel had told me not to let my fears keep me from hearing what the Lord was calling me to. "Here I am, Lord, I come to do your will," I said softly, repeating a favorite prayer.
I looked at Mary - my Mary - and reached for her hand again. "We will be together in this, Mary. We will raise this son to be faithful and obedient to the laws and he will bring us great joy."
And so you have, my tiny one. I look at you sleeping so peacefully at times like this and I wonder about life before you. Sometimes your mother and I pray together and lift you up to your Father, asking him to bless you, for of course he does. Mostly we just try to remain faithful parents every day.
My dear son. I will always be proud to be called your father. I may not be here when your Heavenly Father fulfills his plans in you. As long as I can be here, we will live together as a family of faith. Every single day, no matter what trials and challenges come our way, let us trust in God's way for us. Let us be patient with each other, honest with each other. Let us support each other when we need it and strengthen each other with God's own loving patience. Let us learn God's ways by loving others, forgiving others and healing all who suffer. If you are to save your Heavenly Father's people from their sins, may God develop your heart to love as God loves.
But for this moment, I cherish this time holding you, sleeping against my chest. As I await the singing that is the sign of your mother's return from the well, I know the angel was right: I will put my fears aside. For now the future is simple: I will teach you as my father taught me: to be a carpenter and to be a story teller. Together, we will love your mother. Shaloam, my son. Shaloam each day.
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