Through Christmas we will be looking at 4 players in the Christmas story. I will be speaking as if I am them – today it is Joseph speaking with Jesus
I don’t really know why, but it seems the older you get, the faster time moves. I tell you son, it seems to literally fly. Time seems just to slip away, gone forever. Here, take this piece of oak. You can tell it from the rings that this tree had some rough times, they make a ring smaller than the others, which reflect better days.
That reminds me of when I opened this carpentry shop. Times were hard, so many people were out of work, and those who had work were not getting much for their efforts. My hometown of Bethlehem had no jobs. I was desperate, so when I heard from one of the men who traveled with caravans that they needed a carpenter here in Nazareth, I gathered up all I had and headed north. It was a long way from home, but I needed work.
Soon I was real happy with my choice to move because three months after I moved I met your mother. She was something. When I met her she had a tenderness and peace, and eyes that reflected love, and her face was always joyful. I tell you son, I had no choice but to go after your mother. So young, so beautiful, so sweet, she was clearly created by God.
Before long we were engaged. I was so happy, but then my world fell apart. Your mother was pregnant. I felt that was a shame. How could I have been so wrong about such a beautiful person? My world was turned upside down. I loved your mother so much that I decided to quietly end our engagement, so she wouldn’t be embarrassed, or worse. She could go live with relatives in another village until you were born. I would not burden her, I loved her too much.
Then one night I was sleeping and an angel from God came to me and told me that God was a part of this. He said Mary was faithful, and that when you were born your name was to be Jesus. When I woke up, I was skeptical. Was that really an angel? An angel from God coming to me, a poor peasant, a village carpenter? I wasn’t even sure what an angel should look like, or sound like. But I was convinced that God had revealed His plan for you and your mother. I couldn’t tell anyone. I wasn’t sure but I had to stay.
See that little cradle up there on the wall? You know why I will never, never sell it? I made it for you. I spent hours making it. It was meant for you when you would be born here. Your mother loved it. But, life often doesn’t go as planned by us. You weren’t born here in Nazareth. The Romans issued one of their decrees. The emperor wanted everyone in our world registered and counted so he could collect more taxes.
The problem was that everyone had to go to their hometown, for me Bethlehem. Your mother was in no condition to travel because your time was close. I argued with the local officials, but they didn’t care. I either went to Bethlehem, taking your mother with me, or I would end up in prison. The risk was big for your mother, but it would have been a bigger risk if your mother didn’t go with me with the town talking the way it was. I traded some stuff I had made for a donkey, your mother made the trip on that donkey’s back. Sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do.
We finally made it to Bethlehem on the overcrowded road because many had to travel too. Bethlehem was full of people. It was almost time for you to enter this world and I had trouble going through the crowded streets. We finally made it to the inn, but there was no room for us. The innkeeper, bless his heart, was kind enough to tell us we could stay in the stable behind the inn. It wasn’t much, but we made do with what it was. Remember sometimes you got to use what God provides, to do what you gotta do. I didn’t know it them, but soon that stable would seem like a palace.
We were safe, we were away from the crowd and the weather and that was good news. Your mother told me it was almost time for you to be born, so I made a bed for her in the straw and tied the donkey up. What a night! No words can totally describe it. I found myself trembling as angels filled the sky with singing. Then a super bright star appeared about like the sun. That stable was filled with a glow that made us feel love, peace and hope. THEN, a bunch of shepherds came running in from the hills looking for you.
The shepherds told about angels and singing, and joy filled the place. They brought some fruit and a little lamb as gifts and they couldn’t get enough of seeing you. Honestly, the shepherds acted like they had had too much to drink as they told their story.
When I held you in my arms I knew that you had much promise, yes things were going to happen that might take years to see. I had that same feeling when we went to Jerusalem 12 years later. You really scared us when we were returning home to Nazareth and you weren’t in the caravan. We went back to find you and you had all the scribes in the temple amazed. You were so brilliant. Anyway, where was I, it was the night that I first held you that I realized you were the most precious thing I had ever seen and your mother’s heart was filled with joy.
Your mother and I knew that no matter your future, the most important thing was to raise you in the faith. We had you circumcised and gave you the name the angel had told me, Jesus. Later we took you to Jerusalem and we bought the best sacrifice we could afford, two pigeons, and offered them in the temple. Son, we were filled with pride when Simeon, the wise old prophet praised you along with Anna the prophetess.
So we made the short trip back to Bethlehem and a few months later, some wise men from the east came to visit you. What an entourage! Robes made of the finest clothe and just a huge caravan. They brought you gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Your mother still has some of the gifts hidden for you. These wise men also saw the possibilities in you. I couldn’t believe it because they kept calling you a king. Just think, the son of a carpenter being called a king!
A couple of nights after they left, I had another visit from the angel. Once again I wasn’t sure about it. Was I actually experiencing another holy moment? I know faith often involves a lot of mystery. This time the angel told me to go to Egypt, to protect you from Herod. Thank God I had enough faith to obey the angel. Now that was a hard trip to Egypt. Your mother, you, my tools and my equipment. But once we got to Egypt, it wasn’t too bad, I found some work and it was kind of comfortable but we weren’t home. We couldn’t believe it when we heard that Herod’s soldiers had slaughtered the little children and babies of Bethlehem. I prayed and wondered why and what does all this mean.
Life in Egypt was good but I knew that it was important to go back home, establish our roots again and worship God in the temple. We also knew you needed to study in the synagogue when you were old enough. We all needed neighbors and friends that believed as we did. Then, believe it or not, an angel visited me again and told me it was safe to go home because Herod had died. Son, the more I tell you about angels visiting me, the more I really have become convinced that God is in all this. I haven’t told anyone else all these things because I don’t think anyone else would understand.
So we got back and because of the way our country was divided between Herod’s three sons, we felt the safest place was your mother’s home town of Nazareth. We have made and have had a good life, but now you need to think about going on because I won’t always be with you. Son, listen to me, remember to stand your ground. People will ridicule you, laugh at you, and disagree with you, but what you have to say is far more important than whether people applaud or jeer. I am convinced my son that you, you are our last hope.
Also son, keep your faith in God. Just think about what I went through. Think about what was in my soul when I found out your mother was pregnant when we were just engaged. Think about the difficult and dangerous journey to Bethlehem with your pregnant mother, think about our escape to Egypt. My son, over and over again in my life I have learned one lesson: God is with us! Don’t ever be moved from knowing that wherever you go in life and whatever you face in life, God is with you.
Remember what the prophet Isaiah said so many years ago: He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:29-31)
Listen to me quoting scripture to you, you know it better than me. But listen son, give what you have. I still remember what the shepherds gave the night you were born, it was just what we needed then. Of course the gifts of the gold and spices of the wise men helped us escape to Egypt. Remember that both the shepherds and the wise men gave generously from what they had. They gave simply because they wanted too.
Also son, always remember the little ones, the unimportant people like me, your father. When they hurt, always take the time to wipe their tears and heal their wounds. You will be tempted to think you are above the unimportant people, but don’t ever lose your compassion for them. Finally son, never limit your mind about what God can do. Life, like you, is a bundle of possibilities. It is no secret what God can do son, so you need to go on, go on in faith.
Son, some day, in all the towns and villages, millions, not hundreds, will sing again of that night when the angels sang. And there shall be peace on earth and goodwill to all.