He huddled in a blanket as he sat on his sleeping mat. Slumber had failed him. Again. Little embers glowed in the firepot; the flame was gone. Joseph reached another small piece of fig wood and stirred the embers, then placed the stick on them. As the light began to glow, he stared up at the ceiling.
"Mary's father and I completed this roof just last week," he mumbled quietly to himself. "Now I don't know if she and I will ever share this home. Or anything else."
Once again, he relived the sudden change that day -- the day they finished the roof. Mary's mother came at the end of the afternoon and spoke privately with her husband. After she left, his future father-in-law looked at Joseph gravely.
"My son," he spoke often in such endearing terms to this young man whom he loved as his own, "I have been told something I don't understand."
"What is it?" asked Joseph. "Is it Mary? Is she all right? Should I go to her?
"No, it's not that," her father added mysteriously. "Something was discussed between mother and daughter today that I do not quite understand. I will inquire tonight and tell you more when I arrive tomorrow. But there is one thing, Joseph."
"Yes?" Joseph leaned in anxiously.
"My wife's relatives are going down to Hebron in Judea in a few days. Mary is going with them."
"Hebron? Why? How long has this been planned? Why was I not told before?"
Mary's father had little more to say. When they spoke the next morning, it was even more mysterious. He didn't want to say anymore, even though it was obvious he knew something. What?
The couple, though betrothed, had been busy with many preparations. They limited their time together because they also wanted to live righteously and wait until marriage to complete their union. Their only chance to speak had been in the pre-dawn hours as she was helping pack the small wagon that would accompany the family caravan to the South.
"Joseph, my heart belongs to you," she had said, "but I must go on this journey to see Elizabeth. I have told you so little because I have not known how to say it. Joseph, a messenger of the Eternal has visited me."
He stared at her, not comprehending.
"Joseph, I am with child. It is God's Child!"
The shock broke over him like a cold wave at the Sea of Galilee. "Wha...?
Suddenly they were interrupted. Her uncle said, "We must go!"
She climbed up and spoke through her tears: "Goodbye, my love."
They rode into the darkness.
Now, here he was, tormented again with her message...
(to be continued)
To my readers: the events surrounding the birth of Christ are given extensive coverage in Scripture. The parts we don't always know about are the human elements, especially from the viewpoint of Jesus' participants. My attempt this Christmas is to stay true to the Biblical text, while shading in what it may have been like "between the lines." Please distinguish my ruminations from God's Word by reading the first few chapters of Matthew and Luke. My hope is that reading my words impacts you even a tiny percentage as much as writing them has impacted me.