Yesterday, I spoke at church, and since it was Christmas, I read a story that I wrote: the Christmas story from Joseph’s perspective. Ever since I was little, I’ve heard this story over and over, so I’ve often forgotten that Mary and Joseph were real people with real doubts and feelings. It was fun and eye opening to think of what he actually would have thought. I’m sure his life was not what he expected it to be, but he said yes to God. This year wasn’t what we were expecting either, but we said yes, too. Hopefully we’ll always say yes. Enjoy!
When Mary and I agreed to be married, I don’t think either one of us knew what we were in for. I mean, she was only 13 years old and from a tiny, off the beaten path town called Nazareth, so how could we have known? I was expecting a quiet, simple life with a beautiful, innocent, young woman. I’d be a carpenter and builder, and she would be a devoted wife and mother. We’d be just like every other couple in our town. Nothing fancy, nothing outrageous. I expected the simple life.
Turns out, that’s not how our lives went at all. Not even remotely. We were barely even engaged, when everything went crazy. I used to say, it went down the outhouse, but Mary didn’t like that so much. So I changed it to crazy, which she doesn’t love either, but at least it’s a bit better phrase. Marriage is full of compromise, am I right?
When Mary first told me an angel appeared to her and said she’d become pregnant by the Holy Spirit, I thought she was crazy. For some reason she was happy and excited about this whole thing and expected me to be happy and excited about it too. But I was far from it. What would people think? We’d be the laughingstock of our whole town! We’d be shunned by people all over the countryside. She clearly didn’t realize the implications of it all. Maybe she thought people would believe her – but nobody would. How could they? It sounded absolutely insane! The whole idea of the Holy Spirit, which by the way, I’ve never heard of before, overshadowing a woman, and making her pregnant, is utter nonsense. How could she have said yes to this?
Needless to say by the end of our discussion she was in hysterics and begging me not to have her killed. As per our laws, I could have. I didn’t want to. I loved her. But she was pregnant with a child that wasn’t mine, and her reasoning for being pregnant was too absurd. It just couldn’t be. I had no choice, I had to divorce her. I didn’t want her to be hurt or killed because of this, but I couldn’t marry her now that she’d been defiled. Maybe she wasn’t the girl I thought she was. One thing was for sure; this whole engagement was supposed to be a happy time, but it definitely wasn’t what I was expecting.
To say that we’ve had an eventful year is an understatement. I originally thought Mary was not the person I thought she was, but it turned out that I was the one who was wrong. It was Mary who was more noble and pure than I ever could have even wished to be. I had been thinking about quietly divorcing her because of what I thought she’d done, but I had a dream. In the dream an angel appeared to me and told me that the child that Mary was carrying was indeed from the Holy Spirit. It was such a real dream that I knew without a doubt in my mind that it was from God. I still don’t know what or who the Holy Spirit is. I’m still in shock because of how amazing and magnificent the angel was. The sight I saw sure changed me and I know I’ll never be the same again.
So I said yes. I was obedient to the Lord and married her; but of course, not before we suffered some major backlash and scrutiny from our families and all the town people. Mary handled it all like a champ. She knew the truth. She held her head high despite all the horrible and shameful things people said about her. Her parents tried to be understanding but who could understand something like that? The only reason that I understood was because the Lord physically revealed it to me. My parents thought we were both crazy. Me more so because I chose to stay with such a defiled woman. They didn’t believe the story either.
We didn’t blame anybody for not believing us. They still don’t. And I suppose she knows the truth more than I do. I mean, I do know, but I still doubt sometimes. Not Mary, though. No matter what, she always trusts the Lord and never seems to doubt. And my love for her has only increased all the more, because of the grace and peace that she carries despite such persecution. Sometimes I admit I get a little jealous that the baby that she is carrying isn’t mine, but I’m looking forward to the day that she will carry mine. And I’m also looking forward to the day when this baby is born, and the amazing things that he’ll do. I expected the simple life, in a simple town, with a simple girl, but I see now, that that’s not God‘s plan for us. This year has not gone how I expected it to, but I guess it’s still okay.
Our baby Jesus’s birth was definitely not something we were expecting either! It’s a crazy story that I think will be told for a really long time. I had to take Mary with me to Bethlehem because that’s where I was born, and I needed to go there for the census. We were living in Nazareth at the time, and the journey between there and Bethlehem is about 65 miles. Mary was quite pregnant and obviously uncomfortable, but again, she handled the trip like a champ. It took us about a week to get there. I tried to be as patient and understanding as I could be. I am the kind of person that wants to get from point A to point B in the shortest amount of time possible, but I knew that we couldn’t do that this time. It simply wasn’t safe for her or the baby.
Her spirits were high even though she wasn’t feeling the greatest, and by the time we got there, she was so swollen and in such great pain. Upon arrival, we weren’t able to find a place to stay. When she started going into labour we settled for a small downstairs barn where they keep the more frail animals. It didn’t smell very good, but it was warm, and we were running out of time. She started having contractions, and of course I didn’t know what to do, so she did everything herself. Crazy girl. I could hear her screaming from outside, but she wouldn’t let me help her, so I just paced the floor anxiously, waiting for any sort of word. Finally I heard a baby cry and I couldn’t contain myself anymore. I ran into the room to see if she was okay and looked at that beautiful baby boy. He was so perfect. Mary was exhausted but so happy. She never looked more beautiful to me despite the mess. The only thing in the room to wrap the baby in was some swaddling cloth they use for the Passover lambs, so we wrapped him up in that, and I laid him in the feeding trough, while Mary slept peacefully beside him.
It was the middle of the night but for some reason the sky was exceptionally bright. I looked out and saw a huge star and wondered what that was for. I didn’t remember seeing it before. Suddenly, off to the left, over what seemed to be the sheep fields, there was these big huge flashing lights. It looked like there were big, bright people flying in the sky! I could hear these beautiful sounds and songs, although I couldn’t quite make out what they were saying. Seeing all of this made me wonder if I needed more sleep. Surely I was seeing things and really should just lay down, I told myself.
Of course, that didn’t last very long because not even an hour later, these Shepherd‘s that we didn’t even know, came running close to where we were staying, calling out for a baby that had been born who is Christ the Lord. They kept saying that he was wrapped in swaddling cloth and lying in a manger. That was us! That was our baby! I ran out to see what these guys were talking about and couldn’t believe my ears when they told us what they saw in the sky: angels talking about the Christ child and then singing! How beautiful of a site it was! They told anyone who would listen, which definitely brought way more attention to us than we wanted. Everybody from the whole city came to see what the shepherds were talking about and to see our baby. It definitely was not the quiet, peaceful birth story I was expecting!
After Jesus is crazy birth we try to stay as low-key as possible. We ended up not even going back to Nazareth, but instead, moving to Bethlehem. There was a lot of work for me there and we became good friends with a few of my relatives, so we decided to stay. Things did go back to somewhat normal for about two years. And then… back to crazy again. For the first two years of Jesus’s life, that huge star would shine right over us every night. At first, people thought it was so amazing, but then it became old news after a couple months.
One night, when Jesus was two years old, a large entourage of extremely wealthy wise men and magi, and all their guards, showed up at our front door looking for the Christ child. How did they even know? Who were they? Why did they care about a little Jewish boy? What was going on here? I was very confused, but also pretty happy because they gave us more gold, frankincense and myrrh, than we knew what to do with (which will make sense in the next part of my story). It’s crazy though, that they knew that he was the Saviour of the world already at the age of two. It’s like they studied our Scriptures and knew more about the prophecies, than our actual scribes did!
Back to the gifts that they gave us. I feel like God gave us provision for what was ahead, as if He knew. Just kidding, of course He knew! Shortly after the Magi left, I had another dream. In the dream, another angel appeared to me and said to take Jesus and Mary out of Israel and into Egypt, immediately. I didn’t think that any Israelite would want to go back to Egypt after coming from there so long ago, but nevertheless, I knew we had to get away, and really quickly. So that night, instead of rolling over and thinking I’d leave in the morning, I said yes and immediately woke Mary and Jesus up. We packed everything as quickly as we could, and left, in the pitch black night. I didn’t know where we’d live or how long we’d have to be in such a strange land for, but I still said yes. Which was good, because I heard that a couple of days later, King Herod ordered that all the baby boys ages two an under, in Bethlehem and surrounding area were to be put to death. It was during this time that I realized how God’s provision, timing and direction are imperative in our lives.
So we’re here in Egypt until… I have no idea when. It’s definitely not a place I thought I’d ever want to live. It’s not a place where Israelites are even really supposed to live, actually. Our laws say we can’t even contaminate ourselves with the likes of Egyptians. But I’m learning that God goes beyond what is expected of us and really does whatever He wants to fulfill His plan. We’re enjoying our time here and live comfortably from the money we made from the gifts from the Magi. Mary has made new friends and it’s really nice that no one judges us because Mary got pregnant before we were married. No one knows that part of the story, or would care anyways. We’ve actually had another baby while being here, one that is finally mine. Things are going well, but again, just not what I expected. I’ve come to realize my whole life is saying yes to the unexpected.
After a few years, I had another dream. I was beginning to realize that I liked having dreams because they were so clear to me. Just when I didn’t know what to do, the Lord would give me a dream and direct me. In this dream, God told me that King Herod was dead, so I could take my family back to Israel. I had heard that Herod‘s son, who was even worse than him, was reigning in his place in Judah, so I thought we should stay away from there. Of course, God confirmed it with another dream; instructing me to settle back in the region of Galilee, in Nazareth. Mary was from there, so she was very happy to see her family, even though it was a bit awkward for a while. The town of Nazareth is a one camel town, only a couple hundred people live there. Nothing exciting ever happens there, so I thought that would be a good place settle down and live life. Hopefully go back to some sort of a simple life. Maybe somewhere along the way, have another kid or two. Just do our own thing for a while. Finally get some long term peace, stability and simplicity. I realized though, that every time I thought that, every time I thought things would go back to normal, that’s when things would go crazy again.
I sometimes chuckle to myself because every time something happens, Mary always tells me to go with it; just to do whatever the Lord says, whether I want to or not, like she does. Then she reminds me that I should have known what I signed up for when she got pregnant during our engagement. “You didn’t have to say yes to the angel” she reminds me, “but you did. And that first yes was the beginning of some pretty crazy yeses.” She’s seriously one of the greatest people I know. She has more peace and grace than anyone. I look at her and I have no doubt that God chose right when He chose her to carry His child. I’m so glad she said yes. Honestly, I hoped for the simple life. I still hope for it sometimes. But I’m beginning to realize that life is not what we expect at all, sometimes it’s worse than what we expected, sometimes it’s better than what we expected. Sometimes it’s neither worse nor better, it’s just different. I’m just seeing more and more every day that God is in it all, and really just wants our unconditional yes.
I wasn’t expecting Mary to become pregnant out of wedlock. But I said yes. I wasn’t expecting my wife have a child in a stable and then have all these people come watch because of some shepherd’s crazy, but true, story. But I said yes. I wasn’t expecting to have to move to Egypt in the middle of the night. But I said yes. There were a lot of things that I’m realizing that I would have rather not done; a lot of things that happened that I was not expecting. But I said yes to it all, and I’m still learning to say yes and follow the Lord‘s lead. And I look forward to when Jesus grows up, to see what he will do, and the things he will accomplish. I know that the Lord is with him and IS him. I see it more and more every day; his brilliance, his love, his compassion for people. I know things might get difficult for him, but I know he’ll say yes every time. I wonder if he’ll be what anyone expects. And I wonder who will say yes.