FIRST-PERSON: Joseph writes home from Bethlehem
EDITOR'S NOTE: Columnist Joe McKeever wonders what it might have been like if Joseph had written a letter home to his parents after the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. The imaginary letter is below. Sentences in italics are Joseph's thoughts to himself.
Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Davidson
c/o Davidson Carpentry Shop
Nazareth of Galilee
Dear Mother and Father,
I promised I would write just as soon as we arrived in Bethlehem and got settled.
We're here, but not quite settled yet.
There's so much I want to tell you but can't. For one thing, I don't dare tell you we're in a stable where barnyard animals have been staying. We put in clean hay, but other than that, it's not the most sanitary place in the world. Mother would freak out if she knew.
Here's what happened.
As you predicted, Dad, the trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem was arduous. Whether she was walking or atop the donkey, poor Mary had a hard time of it. But you know my sweet wife. No way was she going to complain. After all, she's the one who insisted that I bring her along.
In future years, people will look back at this event and wonder why in the world we brought Mary all the way from Nazareth to Bethlehem, and her almost due to give birth. The answer is this is one strong young woman. She was bound and determined to be with her husband when the Child was born. And since I was required to make this trip, we just threw ourselves on the care of the Lord and started out.
We came to Judea through Samaria in order to shorten the distance, but as you know, there are still plenty of hills and hollows and the roads are rough and uneven. A couple of times kind travelers gave Mary a ride in their carts, but I'm afraid the jostling and bumping were small improvements over walking.
We're so thankful to have made it all the way to Bethlehem, because Mother, just as you predicted, Mary began having labor pains as we entered the town. Thankfully, we were able to find accommodations all to ourselves. It's private too, and that was a special blessing since we had an eventful evening, the baby coming and everything.
Private accommodations, ha! If they only knew. If it's up to me, no one will ever know where we spent last night. I have to find a house as soon as possible.
I'm so thankful for the instructions you gave us before we left, Mother. "Just in case," as you put it. You are so wise.
I was like all new fathers last night, I'm afraid -- more nervous and afraid than she was. But she told me what to do, and what do you know? Everything is fine. Thank you, Lord.
Oh, I didn't tell you -- it's a boy! And yes, he is beautiful. Literally, a Rose in Sharon, as old Solomon phrased it.
And the Lily of the Valley, Bright Morning Star. Oh, they don't make enough words to describe this wonderful One from Heaven. Words fail.
He's such a special Child. You can almost see a glow coming from Him. And no, I'm not saying He's an angel. He's much more than that!
If they only knew this is not the exaggeration of the typical parent, but the literal truth. I am so blessed to have been chosen as this Child's earthly father.
And Dad, I have to tell you, he looks like Mary's side of the family. I promise the next one will look like you and me.
That was a good one.
By the way, we named Him after that champion of the Bible, Joshua. Yeshua, we're calling Him. You will recall the name means "The Lord Saves." We feel that's such an important reminder that the Lord is our only hope.
Actually, it was the angel who named Him. We're just carrying out our instructions. But it's a perfect name for this One who has been sent for such a mission. In the future, people will call on that Name and be saved. They will sing hymns to that name, and call it the sweetest name on mortal tongue, sweetest carol ever sung, sweetest note in seraph song. Hey, listen to me -- I'm a poet!
I can hear Mother saying, "Quit dilly-dallying and tell me about Mary -- how is she doing?" She's fine, Mom. You'd never know this was her first. She can't stop smiling, actually. And beaming. This special lady has her own unique glow about her. I tease her about that. With her and the baby both beaming out such joy and radiance, we'll never be able to get any sleep around here.
Oh, we had unexpected company last night. Just about the time Mary and the baby were settled in to sleep, some fellows burst into the room all out of breath. I'll fill you in on the details later, but it seems they had been watching their sheep in the fields a mile or two out of town when suddenly, the skies were opened and all the angels in the universe sang to them about the birth of the Savior. Pretty spectacular, wouldn't you say?
And what's more, the angels sent them here. To see us.
Think about that!
Think about it? We've thought of nothing else since they came! How like the Heavenly Father to send a welcoming committee when His Son arrived. I get misty-eyed just thinking of it.
Mary and I aren't quite sure what to make of it all, but those shepherds were not in doubt of anything! They had that look about them, like they had been to Heaven and back. Oddly, they didn't stick around, but burst out of here to tell others.
And that, I understand! How could anyone sit on such news?! I want to tell everyone I see. But they wouldn't understand. For now, this is just for a few of us. In time, the Lord will want us to shout it from the housetops. I can't wait! It's tough bottling up such an announcement.
We're surprised that no one else has come, the way the shepherds seemed to be telling everybody. And a little relieved, I have to say. It's not like we need a crowd here in this, uh, maternity ward.
Guys, I'm having those dreams again. You recall I told you about the dream when the Lord instructed me to marry Mary, that all this was His doing? That was so real, I've never doubted it, even if you did have questions about it at the time.
This one is the same, but different.
Do I dare tell them?
In this dream, the Lord seems to be warning me about something that is coming up. I promise to listen closely and drop you a note when we know. Unless He says otherwise, our plans are to return to Nazareth as soon as the baby is able to travel.
We expect to move into a house -- and get out of this barn, so to speak! -- just as soon as this census-taking business ends and the crowds move out. We'll keep you informed.
I'm sure I can find work to do here in the City of David. People can always use a good carpenter.
Don't worry about us, Mom and Dad. Just keep praying. Yes, the Lord is with us. He really is -- in more ways than you can ever imagine.
The Lord is with us! Emmanuel. Is He ever! "God in the flesh" -- that would have seemed blasphemous not long ago. Now, it's the living truth! The Son of God is lying right there in His mother's arms.
I think I'm going to cry again.
And yes -- I can hear you asking -- it's all right to tell people about your new grandson. But folks, don't be surprised if they all have a hard time believing all this. We're still working through it ourselves. You may just want to tell them we've had a baby and not get into the details. The time will come to tell everyone the whole story. Right now, it would not make sense to most of them.
The main thing is that we know the Lord is here, that He is up to something, and we are a part of it.
And that's about as exciting as it can get. Pray for us. We send our love.
Oh, Dad, by the way. Now that you've got a grandson, he will need someone to teach him how to fish, so take some time off from the carpentry shop, dig out your equipment, and brush up on those skills.
He will be a carpenter and a fisherman. Wonder what else? Wonder what other plans the Father has in store for this amazing Child? I suppose we will walk by faith and find it out as He's ready to reveal it. Thank you, Lord. Oh, thank you, Father. We bless Your holy Name.
Your loving son,
Joe McKeever is a Baptist Press cartoonist and columnist, a former longtime pastor and former director of missions for the New Orleans Baptist Association. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).