“Joseph!” greeted Mary’s Father. “It is good to see you.”
Joseph and his father-in-law exchanged a light embrace and a back-pat to one another. They stepped back and in the shadows of the setting sun. Mary’s father studied Joseph’s face before his eyes dropped to his clothes.
“What’s this? Have you been hurt Joseph?” Mary’s Father questioned, noticing the blood on Joseph’s clothing.
“No, I’m fine. The blood is not mine. It’s from this poor foal that I rescued on my way,” replied Joseph.
The two men removed the beaten animal from the back of Joseph’s donkey. A servant was summoned and given instructions to feed, house and care for both animals. Mary’s father gave the servant instructions to ask Gad to look in on the poor colt. Gad has shown great veterinary skill helping with the sheep during his stay. It was a good thing Gad and his daughter Susanna had traveled back with Mary from Judea, thought Mary’s father.
“Come in Joseph. I have a guest room prepared for you. I was hoping you would not delay when you received my message,” said his father-in-law.
Unspoken questions etched Joseph’s eyes. His father-in-law sighed and turned to go into the house. “You can clean up and change before dinner. After we eat, we’ll talk.”
Mary was just rounding the corner of the house, her arms wrapped around a cistern of water, when she heard his voice. It was Joseph. Her heart skipped a beat and her stomach fluttered. She stepped back to the corner of the house, hidden from Joseph and her father. She leaned against the stone wall and closed her eyes. “God in heaven,” she prayed, “I know you are with me, for who is like the Most High?”
She stood quiet in the evening shadows and could not be seen by either man but could hear their conversation. She listened intently to every word spoken. Her father denied her to contact or to talk with Joseph in any way. She would respect the authority of her father knowing ultimately God has all authority and His will would be done. For even though, her father did not believe that Mary remained a virgin with the child she carried, he was a godly man and surely God would reveal all in His time.
When her father picked Joseph as her husband, she could not have been more overjoyed. Joseph had been hired to do several large carpentry projects that required on-site building in her village. She learned he was a Godly man, a very talented carpenter and handsome besides. She had fallen in love with him even before her father had asked her if she would be pledged to him.
Now, her father forbade her to see him. “Will Joseph believe me, God, even though my own father cannot?” Mary’s heart grieved at the thought of what her father might say to Joseph. What would Joseph do? There was danger for sure, but she trusted that whatever road God Almighty would take her down, He would be with her. “Help me, Lord.” Mary trembled.
The servant carried the foal and led Joseph’s donkey to the barn. He passed close to where Mary was listening and watching the men. The servant had heard the gossip and wondered what Mary would do. He had known her since she was born, and felt brotherly love for her. She was always a humble, sweet spirited girl. He had never known her to lie. And somewhere within him, even though her story was strange, he didn’t disbelieve her. But to believe in the story, he wasn’t sure either. He had befriended Gad and Susanna since their stay, and decided to inquire their thoughts about Mary. But first he must see to this beaten colt. The poor thing looked as if it might take its last breathe any moment.
Mary was so engrossed in seeing Joseph, she hadn’t even noticed the servant pass so close by her. When Joseph and her father went into the house, Mary turned to go as well. She would be having dinner alone tonight as she had every night since telling her parents she was pregnant. Mary’s parents did not even believe Grandfather. Her poor grandfather’s health started to decline before their trip home. Had Gad and Susanna not been with them, Mary was not sure what she would have done. Grandfather tried to speak up for her. He told them what he could, but his cough had gotten increasingly worse. He was so ill, he could hardly speak at all.
Mary stared at her plate of food. She couldn’t eat knowing her family sat with her betrothed in the other room. She wanted to see his face, hear his deep voice and hold his rough hand. Silent tears rolled over her face as she envisioned her father telling Joseph his version of her pregnancy. Her mind rolled back to just two weeks ago: She revealed to her parents what had happened on the day she was visited by the angel. She told them exactly what she saw and what Gabriel said. She told them, this happened before she left to see Elizabeth.
Grandfather tried his best to explain all of Elizabeth’s story as well as Elizabeth’s prophecy when she saw Mary. But her parents said he was always to partial to Mary. He would believe anything she told him. And this proved it! How convenient for Mary to make up a story that went along with Elizabeth’s, they thought.
Elizabeth’s miracle, they could believe, but not this. They accused Mary of adultery and trying to cover up the adulterous act with an outlandish story. They surmised she made up the story after hearing about Elizabeth’s pregnancy.
“At least Elizabeth didn’t claim a virgin pregnancy!” they exclaimed. “And Zachariah was the one, a priest, who saw the angel. Who are you, Mary? Who are you that God should send His angel to you? How could you do this to us? How could you do this evil to Joseph?”
All Mary could do was proclaim her innocence, and weep. She believed every word from God spoken through the Angel Gabriel. And it came to pass just as the angel had spoken. She was with child though she was a virgin. She would never relent. No matter the cost, she had always spoken the truth and now the truth was hard for others to believe.
“You will tell no-one about this, especially not Joseph,” demanded her father. “I will let Joseph do whatever he sees fit.” Those were the dreadful words of her father after she returned home. Her mother reacted in disbelief that any of this was happening. She would not speak to Mary and has cried and wept for the last two weeks as if Mary had died.
Now, here she was, carrying the babe of the Most High. She understood the disbelief. It was even hard for her to fathom sometimes. Her parents were right. Who was she that God would choose her? But He did. If only I could talk with Joseph and tell him the truth, she thought.
After dinner, Joseph and Mary’s father went out in cool night air for a walk. Small talk ensued, but Joseph could take it no longer.
“Tell me what is going on,” he demanded of Mary’s father. “Why was Mary not present at dinner? What is so urgent that I must come right away, but when I arrive, is so unimportant that you delay in telling me? Stop with the trivial talk.”
A long silence followed. Mary’s father looked at Joseph with furrowed brow as if trying to find the words. He had rehearsed in his mind just how he might tell Joseph that his betrothed was pregnant, but now he couldn’t find the words. He loved his daughter and he was afraid for her. He was horrified and angry when Mary told him her preposterous story. Now he could only feel sorrow for her future. He had a long presentation for Joseph that he planned, but, at this moment, he decided to just be forthright.
“Mary is….,” he could hardly say it out loud, “with child.”
The words hit Joseph like a thousand rams, wild and unrestrained that trampled and crushed his heart. He let out a grown from deep within,”no! this can’t be.”
“Joseph,” said Mary’s father, let me tell you….”
“Leave me,” Joseph shouted, his voice hard and harsh.
Mary’s father turned and left Joseph to his grief. He had not walked far when he heard Joseph’s unrestrained weeping break though the still cool night. He stopped. He would wait, then go and see if he could comfort Joseph in some way. He cared for him deeply, as a son.
Oh Mary, what have you brought upon me? were the thoughts of both father and betrothed.
The sun rose upon Joseph’s grief as if nothing had happened. He spent the morning in prayer refusing breakfast. At mid-morning he thanked Mary’s mother for her hospitality and told her that he would speak to both her and her husband at the evening meal. The rest of the day was spent in fasting and prayer in the seclusion of a grouping of trees he discovered on his walk.
So many emotions washed over Joseph, he didn’t know what to do with them. One moment he was angry the next he just wanted to see his bride. Ahh, his bride, what would he do? The day was hastening away. He sat under a tree and threw rocks at nothing. He could hear the rocks pounce when they hit ground. He sat there in silence thinking. And hurting.
“It’s a g-g-good place to th-think,” a voice from behind Joseph said.
Joseph turned to see Gad who had cared for the rescued foal. “Gad, isn’t it?” Joseph asked.
“Yes,” replied Gad.
“Come and sit. I could use some company in my misery.”
Gad sat down next to Joseph. Neither man saying anything for a while.
Then Gad turned to Joseph and said, “G-G-G-Grandf-f-father said he’s ne ne never known M-M-Mary to lie. If sheee said she h-h-heard from God through an-n-n angel, he b-b-believes her.”
“What” Joseph questioned. “are you talking about?”
“You haven’t t-t-talked to Mary or heard all of th-the facts,” Gad replied. He hated his stutter, but he had to speak with Joseph.
“What other facts do I need to know? My betrothed is pregnant. There’s only one way that happens.”
“N-Not according to Mary, or the angel, or the pr-pr-prophets for that matter,” Gad responded.
“And what do you know of angels, or prophets? Or maybe I should be asking, what do you know of Mary?” Joseph accused.
“Of angels, I know l-little. Of the prophetic scripture, I know quite well. F-F-From what-t-t I have s-s-s-seen, and h-h-heard, I believe M-M-Mary.
“What are you talking about? You believe what about Mary? That she is pregnant? Yes, I’ve been told,” fumed Joseph.
“Are you aware of what she has not done?” Gad pushed back.
Gad did not wait for a reply. He forged ahead and became a voice for Mary. He told Joseph all that Mary had said about the angelic visit and her virgin pregnancy.
“Why should I believe such a story?” Joseph questioned
“You are a man of belief in the one true God, you must have faith just as your very own ancestors had faith,” said Gad.
By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command so that what was seen was not made out of what was visible.Hebrews 11:3
By faith, Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of righteousness that is keeping with faith.Hebrews 11:7
By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.Hebrews 11:8
Joseph stood to his feet. He needed to get back to the house and clean up before dinner. He was deep in thought and hadn’t noticed something miraculous just took place. But Gad noticed and praised God. Somewhere in the conversation about Mary and faith, Gad no longer stuttered. Now he wanted to talk to someone, anyone. Joseph had already walked away. Where were people when you needed them!
Joseph’s legs felt heavy as he walked to Mary’s home in silent depressed thought. Gad was right about faith. Joseph was finding it easier to believe God’s miracles and intervention in his ancestors he heard and read about rather than his own life. Surely, God would choose someone greater than him and Mary for bringing about His plans. I am only a carpenter, he thought. He would question Mary’s father about her claims tonight. But he had made his decision already. He would divorce her.
Gad found his daughter Susanna and had never talked so much in his life. In the past, his stutter kept him from most all conversations. Usually, he only spoke when absolutely necessary. Now, his daughter Susanna couldn’t get a word in edgewise.
“I have studied the Torah and the prophets as diligent as the priests. Many times, I could not ask questions. My stutter kept me from entering so many conversations, but it also enabled me to listen. I learned a great deal from listening,” Gad said.
“Father! Yes, you have told me,” Susanna exclaimed smiling. “And what have you learned today from listening?”
“Listening to men, or to God?” Gad questioned.
Susanna gave her father a look. One that reminded him of Susanna’s mother. “To men, but if God has spoken to you, by all means enlighten me.”
“God speaks to me every day, Susanna. He affirms His majesty when I gaze at the sparkle of the stars. He whispers His love in the river’s gentle flow of cool water on a hot day. He provides rest under the mighty oak tree. He gives laughter at the bellar of a baby goat.”
“You can find God’s voice in everything He has created. You just have to be listening.”Tweet
Later that night at dinner, Mary’s father confirmed the unbelievable story of an angel speaking about the Holy Spirit and delivering God’s Word to Mary. Joseph wanted to believe it, but he just could not. He informed Mary’s father that he would divorce her quietly. He wouldn’t say more than that to her father, but he still loved her so very much.
Dear Reader, thanks again for following this Christmas story. My prayer is always that Jesus would be made alive in your hearts and minds, and that you would know Him and love Him as He loves you. The next chapter will be published very soon. Stay tuned! It seems the angel Gabriel will be sent by God for another mission.
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Categories: A Christmas Story