Monday, December 24, 2012

25 Days of Christmas Presence--Day 24--Joseph

By Steve Rehnborg

Hurt. That’s what I felt. It seems so long ago now, but I remember the pain in my heart when Mary tried to explain that she was pregnant with a child of the Holy Spirit, like that happens everyday. I thought, if you’re going to lie to me, make up a better story than that. I walked away from that conversation, uncertain. I wondered how was I going to explain this to Jacob, my father. The wedding plans were already begun. He was already preparing a place for us. He and my mother were already looking forward to grandsons. They weren’t going to believe the Son of God story. I was certain that would be ashamed of me, it would be my fault. They expected better of me and I always tried to live up to their expectations.

I focused on my work for awhile. We had plenty to do. New work had begun expanding the synagogue, Nazareth was growing. But, everyday as we worked on erecting the new stone walls, I couldn’t shake the hurt. One day I reached a decision, or so I thought. I chose then to divorce Mary. I cared about her too much to humiliate her in public so I chose to do it quietly. I knew I would have to tell my father, but I also knew he would not be ashamed of me because my insistence on a divorce would demonstrate my innocence. I was certain that my parents would be disappointed, their hopes for grandchildren were going to be postponed, but I was determined that a marriage could not begin without trust.

That’s when everything changed. I went to bed exhausted from a hard day’s work, but convicted about my decision. I was asleep quickly and deeply. I can still see the angel who spoke to me in my dreams that night. He was frightening and amazing all at the same time. He spoke to my doubts and fears. He confirmed what Mary had said. I was right. You can’t begin a marriage without trust, but I was apparently the one that had to learn to trust. When he was gone and I awoke, I could hardly wait to find Mary. I knew my fears were frightening her too. I wanted her to know that I understood God’s plan now. The potential was beyond measure.

And so, I didn’t divorce her. The wedding was still going to happen. I took some ridicule because Mary was pregnant, but we were beginning our life together in service to our God.

Politics. We spent a lot of time discussing politics at the work site. Everything from the temple leadership to the oppression of Rome. When Caesar Augustus declared we would have to register, the debates began to get heated. It was a hardship. I had to stop working so I could travel to Bethlehem. Many of us did. That slowed our progress on the synagogue and cost us several days’ wages. But, politics, we couldn’t do anything else but what we were told.

The journey to Bethlehem was more difficult with Mary so close to having her baby, THE baby. (I was in awe of the possibilities of this birth.) The journey was hard, but things didn’t get easier just because we arrived. The city was crowded. We were barely able to manage the streets for the crowds of people swarming, pushing and bumping. Finding a place to stay, nearly impossible. I tried to find accommodations, but the birth was imminent. Anyplace was the urgent need. The stable was as good a place as any; at least it got us away from the crowds.

The birth. It didn’t seem quite as dramatic as I might have expected for Immanuel, the Savior. But, when Mary laid him in the manger, I was captivated by His Presence and suddenly overwhelmed by the responsibilities of the days that were to follow. When the shepherds arrived to tell us their story, Mary and I could only smile. God was confirming what He had told us and He was telling the world.

I fell into the dad role pretty easily. I always loved children. It just made me stop and ponder when I was reminded of who Jesus was and the Power that was present there. I watched him grow and learn. When he was old enough, he began to help me with my work. I taught him about building on a good foundation. I taught him about cornerstones. I showed him how to make the plans for a new building. He always listened dutifully, respectfully, with appreciation, but I knew his future was not coming from me. He was already too wise among the scholars. His hands were made for healing, encouragement, hope, and love. They were not made to heft stone and form wood. I knew that.

I won’t be able to participate in the promise of his future. I won’t see the plans fulfilled. My time is short here. I know he is provided for. The wealth of kings was laid at his feet when he was still a child. I am just grateful that God let me experience His Presence.

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