Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Story

The Birth of Christ by Raphael

Joseph of Nazareth
by Charlie Leck

Joseph was a Jew from Nazareth in Galilee. He was a good Jew and followed the laws, the Chamisha Chumshei Torah, expressed in the sacred writings of Judaism as recorded by Moses who was divinely inspired to write them.

Now it was the Chanukah season and he should have been in Nazareth, celebrating this important, historic moment for all Jews. It was the season of the miracle of lights, when Jews celebrated their great victory over oppression. They had won the right to practice their faith – to be Jews. It was the season of joy and freedom.

Yet, the pig of Rome, the Governor of all the land of the Jews, had ordered a census of Jews and each of them was to return to the land of his forebears to register. What nonsense! It was determined that Joseph should return to Bethlehem, in Judea. He was anything but pleased. It was a long and difficult journey of nearly 70 miles and it was a busy time for him in his carpentry shop in Nazareth. However, there was no option. Rome ruled with a fierce grip and its decrees were not to be disobeyed. They cared nothing about a Jew’s occupation or his holy seasons or his inconveniences.

The woman was struggling and showing great discomfort. Her labor pains were coming with more frequency. The only blessing seemed to be the weather and the bright skies.

It was a balmy evening and nearly light as day. The stars were shining brightly and a full moon was nearly as intense as the winter sun. It made the final stage of the journey more bearable.

The man and woman were finally approaching their destination. They were much later than they had expected and they were tired and anxious to find some place comfortable to sleep. Yet, the donkey that carried the pregnant woman looked strong and determined.

Had Mary not been so close to the time when she would deliver her child, Joseph would have left her in Galilee. She had sisters who would have taken care of her, but she insisted on being with Joseph and told him that the child was destined to be born in Bethlehem.

Destiny! Messages from angels! Joseph fought his sense of anger. He was tired of the talk of angels and miracles. He loved Mary in a very powerful way, but no man could have accepted what she was asking him to believe – that she had never slept with a man and that the child was God’s and she had been commanded to give birth to the baby.

In spite of his doubts and the pain he felt, Joseph was determined to wed the woman and it would happen in Bethlehem, after the birth of the child. And, the carpenter was determined to raise the baby as his own and vowed that the child would never hear from his lips that he, Joseph, was not the father.

The donkey struggled up the gentle hill, pressing faithfully on. Joseph hoped that this was the final climb and from the top of it they would be able to see the village. He led the animal on.

At the top of the slope, they looked down on Bethlehem and Joseph and Mary and even the animal were astounded at what they saw. A star shone brightly. It was like no star that they had ever seen before. Music filled the skies. They, including the donkey, were filled with renewed energy and a sense of peace and happiness came over each of them.

The star had settled over a stable behind an inn. They moved down, into the village, guided by the glowing star. They came to the inn and Joseph rang the bell that hung from the front door. He knew, even before he asked, that there would be no room. He saw angels now, hovering above the barn behind the inn. The innkeeper told him there was no room. Joseph explained about his pregnant wife and explained how tired they were from the journey. He pleaded with the man.

“You may stay in the stable, if you like. There are several clean stalls. It is all I can do, and I am sorry.”

“Bless you,” Joseph said.

“Sleep well,” the kindly innkeeper said.

“Wait,” Joseph called to the man who was about to close the door.


“Did you notice the bright star that has settled over your stable? And, do you see the angels there?”

The man came out from the inn and walked to the corner of the building, where Mary and the donkey waited. He looked back toward the stable and saw nothing.

“It is a very bright night,” he said, “but I see nothing more. There are no angels! You must be very tired from your journey.”

Joseph didn’t understand. They were there – nearly a dozen of them and, very softly, they sang songs of the faith, praising God.

The man returned to the inn and his bed. Joseph and Mary moved around behind the inn, Mary still upon the beast. The lovely sounds of music seemed to attend them and they saw the star hovering low and over the barn. Angels were everywhere and Joseph was filled with tears. He turned to his wife and begged her.

“Mary, my darling, please forgive me. I couldn’t have believed, but now I see. My eyes have been opened and now I know. This is not our child. This is a child of God.”

“Why have we been so blessed?” Mary asked her bretrothed in a voice so soft and lovely that it too sounded angelic.

“It is our holy season, Mary. God is all powerful. He has set us free from oppression. And now he has sent a baby to guide us.”

Joseph put the donkey in an empty stall and then he began to prepare another, fixing a comfortable place for Mary to lie down. As he worked the woman softy sang a chant.

Barukh ata Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha‑olam... Blessed are You, Lord, our God, King of the universe...
The angels sang with her.

Joseph began to clean out the manger that sat in a corner of the stall. He padded it with straw and laid a soft blanket upon it. As he did, while the woman sang, he prayed.

Be'zeh ha'shaar lo ya'voh tzaar
Be'zot ha'deerah lo ta'voh tzarrah
Be'zot ha'delet lo ta'voh ba'halah
Be' zot ha'machlaka lo tavoh machloket
Be'zeh ha'makom te'hee bracha v'shalom

Let no sadness come through this gate,
Let no trouble come to this dwelling,
Let no fear come through this door,
Let no conflict be in this place,
Let this home be filled with the blessing of joy, and peace.
“Joseph,” Mary called softly to him, “it is time!”

And in the fields above the village there were shepherds tending their flocks. They saw the great star and an angel came to them and told them the news, that a King was to be born this night, for them and for all mankind. It was the Messiah for whom they had been waiting.

The astonished shepherds began to walk toward the village, toward the star that shone so brightly, and as they went they sang out.

Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God! The LORD is One!
Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God — the LORD alone.

Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the world,
Who has kept us in life and sustained us,
And brought us to this moment.
Joseph took the new born babe from the arms of his sleeping mother, and wrapped it in swaddling cloth and laid it in the manger. Now, as the child slept, the angels sang only in a soft whisper. Joseph knelt beside the child and prayed without ceasing.

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