(scene opens with Joseph pacing in his workshop)
… Is it hot in here, or is it just me?…
I just saw Mary down at the well… I don’t think that she saw me. But boy did I ever see her! I had heard from a friend that she had returned from her Cousin Elizabeth’s a few days ago. But I… I guess… I wasn’t ready to see her yet. And I certainly wasn’t expecting to run into her in such a public place. The well! Right in the middle of town square! Isn’t she supposed to be hiding, cowering in shame inside her family’s home… But there she was: happy- glowing, in fact! And round…
My Mary. My wife.
We have been engage for so long, and with the wedding truly just around the corner… I, and the whole community, had already begun to think of her as my wife. My Mary.
I never would have dreamed that this was the path that I would walk in my life. I am Joseph: Son of the law, a righteous man, a just man. And now, with a wife that is pregnant with another man’s child.
Our marriage was arranged when we were just children. Like nearly all marriages are in this small town… she comes from a good family. Hardworking. She was an obedient child and she grew into a pious and beautiful daughter of the law… We were a perfect match! For the past several years, we both knew that one day we would build a home, start a family, and together we would live a life that was pleasing to our Lord!
For the past year, our families had begun to let us see each other. To be together, without a crowd of supervision… (scoffs)… and we had started talking. Making shy plans for our home. She would come here into my workshop, and watch me build and work with my hands. I had even made a few pieces for our home. Or our soon-to-be home! She just about fell over when I showed her the dinning table! She was so happy! It was the first thing that, sort of, showed us that our future, our family… was about to begin. She had started coming here nearly everyday. We would sit and talk for a short time, before we both had to get back to our work or chores. And if I saw her at the well, I would carry her water buckets home for her. It took her a while to let me be seen with her at the well… it is town-square after all… All eyes were on us.
It didn’t take us long to laugh at the days when we were shy towards each other! Now we were friends! She was a delight!
I had always been pleased that we were engaged, but now I loved that we were engaged. The more time we spent together… the more I loved Mary. My wife. My Mary.
All was well. Until about six months ago… she started coming around less. She looked a little tense. She was fidgety. I was starting to get a little worried that I had done something wrong… And then she came to me, here in my workshop … I was so happy to see her! But as soon as I saw her beautiful, and now familiar, face approaching… I knew in my bones that something, for sure, was very wrong. There was no smile, no lightness… she looked so terribly scared.
She came into the shop and went over to our table… and ran her hands over the smooth surface, breathing in the oil that I used to coat it… and then she came towards me, and with eyes that were rimmed with red, and she asked, “Can you make a cradle?”
Everything that she said after that is all a blur. There was this buzzing in my ear, I swear… Something about an angle of the Lord, she was carrying a child, God’s great plan, she was carrying a child, prince of eternity, she was carrying a child.
It rang over and over in my head. She was carrying a child. My Mary! My virgin bride! Was with child.
I felt like I had just been beaten bloody… but from the inside. My heart was breaking.
I asked her who the man was, for he would need to be dealt with… and she told me there was no man. Told me some nonsense about God’s will…
I told her that I needed some time to think… and I turned away from her.
I didn’t hear her leave… but I knew she had gone…
… pause distractedly
Last I had heard was that she had gone to stay with her cousin Elizabeth in Judea. Which was probably a wise choice. The rumor of her pregnancy was flying around town. I was approached several times with people accusing me of betraying our marital traditions, and about betraying God’s blessing on our paring. Not that I did anything wrong! And as angry and confused as I was towards Mary… I know that she would have born the brunt of the accusations and the finger pointing. Her name was going to be dragged through the mud.
When I told my parent’s that Mary was pregnant, they hit the roof! Since we were engaged, and practically married, there would have to be a formal divorce: a public trial in front of the Rabbis. And everybody knew that adultery was a stoning crime. They raged. They cried. After a while they calmed down enough to hear what I had to say about this situation…
I told them that, it was true, Mary had betrayed me… but however this happened, she didn’t deserve to die for it. I told them that there would be no rabbis involved. No public trial. That we could handle this quietly, mercifully! All you, really, needed for a divorce were two witnesses. Mary was going to suffer enough without the official declaration of her being an “adulterer.” I told them that if I were a righteous man, a good God fearing Jew, that meant not giving into that fleeting desire to see her punished.
I am the son of the law. So I know that I can no longer marry her. But I am also the child of a merciful God. This was my decision. I choose mercy.
But before I could do anything official, like quietly end our engagement… she was carted off to Judea.
And now she’s back. I can’t pretend anymore that what she told me was a dream. I just saw her at the well.
But, she looked so much different than when she left. Her eyes weren’t red, they looked clear. Her shoulders weren’t hunched, but she stood up straight. She looked happy… no joyful! She was glowing. She was the picture of everything that I had hoped for! Once I had allowed myself to dream about seeing Mary round with my child… Happy, joyful. Just like that.
OOOoooo… I wish this would all just go away. I want my wife. My Mary. The sweet, innocent, pious, beautiful girl that was to be all mine.
I think I need to go for a walk. Better yet, I think I’ll head outside of town and sit and think for a bit.
… tone shift…
Just a little ways outside of town I found my favorite broom tree and sat under it a while just thinking through this whole Mary business. (feeling sorry for myself… more like) Then my eyes got really heavy. So I thought that I would rest for a bit. And I dreamed.
But there was something off about my dream. It was too bright. Too bold. Far, far too real! Usually I just dream in black and white… but, I felt awake, you know? I was looking around the room of my dream-land, and my eyes settled on a figure. So, I walked towards it. It was a man, I think. But his face was smooth, so he couldn’t have been a Jew. And he sort of glowed a little. And was the room getting warmer as I walked towards him? What is this? But before I could consider this any further.
He called out to me,
“Joseph son of David,”
Yes that’s me. Who are you? I called back. But he just kept on talking.
“Do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.”
The Holy… what? What is this? I thought.
“She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
Really, is this really happening? Baby… Baby Jesus was it? A Savior?
This sounded so absurd! But for somewhere deep inside me I knew that what was being spoken in my dream was the truest thing I have ever heard. … This is what my people have always talked about. A savior. The coming Messiah! Can this be true? Is this real?
Wait. I said to the man… You are saying that I should take Mary as my wife, with the child of the Holy Spirit and all? And that I should name this child. But, naming a child declares you as the father… (awed) That would declare me as the father.
Wait. I’m a father!?
Jesus, was it? This child is Jesus? Immanuel, God with us.
The glowing man in front of me just smiled softly and nodded at my awed confusion.
Then the room began to shake and rumble, and the man got brighter and brighter. I had to look away, and squint my eyes.
And then, I woke up. My neck ached from the awkward position it had fallen into. My knees were warm from the sun’s rays.
I was back under my favorite broom tree.
Waking up is always such a simple act… but this time it anything but simple. It was nearly as startling as the news I had heard in my dream! I woke up to a world that was turned onto its head. As doubt-filled and awed as I was in the dream. I knew in my soul, that my Lord had sent an Angel, a messenger, to speak to me.
As I looked around this new world, this is what I knew to be true:
Mary was pregnant. And I was going to marry her as I had always longed to. She was going to give birth to a Savior. And I would name that child. Name him to declare him as my own. And we were going to raise this child, Immanuel: God with us.
Nothing was going to be the same ever again… The Jews had always spoken of this day. Always talked about the savoir of our people… I never in my wildest dreams expected that I would be a part of that plan! To be a small piece of the My Lord’s great and divine plan.
I jumped up from my place under the broom tree and I ran home, calling out to my parents to dress in their Sabbath clothes. And I asked them to come with me to Mary’s home. They looked at me like I was nuts, but they knew that how I handled this “Mary situation” was up to me. Little did they know that I wasn’t leading them to a stoning, or even a divorce proceeding… But today was going to be my wedding day!
And so it was… I declared to Mary the words of our ancestor Solomon as I said to her. “I come to my garden, my sister, my bride. Set me a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; for love is as strong as death, passion as fierce as the grave.”
I married my wife, my Mary then and there, for our Lord had sent us a messenger that restored our promise to each other.
Which was a small thing in light of what God was doing right now with the baby growing inside Mary’s womb.
She now looks at me with knowing eyes, for we are both filled with the peace and promise of our God.
Now I know what my ancestor David meant when he said:
“When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dreamed.
Our mouths were filled with laughter,
our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us,
And we are filled with joy.
Those who go out weeping
Have retuned with songs of joy.” (Psalm 126)
I don’t know what our future will hold. But I trust that God chose Mary and I as the vessel for His divine work for a reason. I don’t know why God would want to use simple poor folks from the back woods of Galilee… but there you have it. Our Lord, must be working up to something big! It was once foretold that there would be a child to lead our world into peace, stillness, and glory. And I can already see all of that leaking into our world. For there is peace, love, and joy in my heart. Come let us prepare. Amen.