(continued from yesterday)
Now, here he was, tormented again with her message. Back and forth his thoughts flickered, like the firelight now dancing on the ceiling.
"I can trust her," he thought. "If she said an angel visited her, it must be true!"
"No!" he argued with himself. "Of all the crazy stories. How many men have heard from their betrothed things like, 'I was assaulted by a stranger' or 'I have been faithful to you and the Eternal -- I don't know HOW I got pregnant!' In the end, it was always the same story. The bride had some other man whom she fancied and she had strayed."
"Not Mary," his other thoughts rang out. "She is innocent and kind and truthful and loyal and faithful. She loves only me!"
"What will they say at the synagogue?" came the reply. "Joseph, what has happened here? We thought you were a righteous man! You will likely be cast out for your lies and impurities!"
"No!" he decided with finality. "I won't be cast out! I have not sinned! I will issue her a certificate of divorce!"
Then, thinking of his love for her, he thought tenderly, "I will send word and have her stay in Hebron. After the child comes, surely someone will marry her and protect the child. She will never have to return to Nazareth and we will not tell what has happened to anyone outside the family."
"O Eternal," he prayed in his exhaustion, "what do I do?"
"Joseph, son of David!"
Startled, Joseph looked and saw the faint outline of a man in the dark corner. He groped for his carving knife.
"Don't be afraid, Joseph." The voice was kind, even friendly. As the man stepped closer, the whole room became brighter. "Mary is with child by the Holy Spirit, and she will bear a Son. Take her as your wife without fear and, when the Child is born, name Him Jesus. He shall save His people from their sins. And Joseph, as one who has studied the Scriptures, remember the words of the prophet Isaiah which foretold a Son born to a virgin. Mary IS that virgin! Your prophet said that the child will be known as Immanuel -- God is with us."
The fire crackled and Joseph jerked his head up. Had he been asleep? He was in the room alone. Had it all been a dream? But it was so real!
He suddenly KNEW. Something was stirring inside him!
......... What was that noise? Someone was pounding on the door in the pre-dawn stillness! Mary's father climbed out of the warm covers and opened the door. Joseph was standing there. Even in the light of only one candle, his eyes held a strange brightness.
"How soon can we get word to Mary in Hebron?" he asked excitedly.
"We must get word to her right away and ask her to return. As soon as possible!"
"What? Why?" Mary's father stood there in shocked surprise at his normally calm, future son-in-law.
"An angel has visited me tonight in a dream! He explained everything. And we must make plans for our future as soon as Mary gets home!
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.