Tomorrow I post the first part of the series about Joseph’s life and Christmas from the eyes of a man (Joseph). It’s important to mention that Joseph has no speaking parts in the Christmas story. The Bible never quotes anything that Joseph said. With that in mind, I want to take some creative liberties and put some words into Joseph’s mouth. It’s important to let my readers know that this piece is just a creative work of art and not a biblical story or sermon. Nevertheless, properly used, it can serve as a most powerful tool to minister to men, especially the unbelievers. Let me set the scene here:
Joseph is sitting in a fine looking chair. He sits next to a workbench. It is obviously his workspace. As you already know, he is a carpenter and a very good one! He’s focused on something and turns to see you. As he turns his head you hear him saying :
Abraham begat Isaac.
Isaac begat Jacob.
Jacob became the man we know as Israel, and he in his turn became the father of Judah and his many brothers.
This was the beginning of long line of ancestors that are mine.
My name is Joseph, a carpenter from the town of Nazareth.
In my culture, every Jewish boy and girl was required to memorize their ancestry. Beginning with Adam and Eve, going on thru Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. On thru David and Solomon and the many great kings of Judah.
(at this point Joseph stands up and continues)
They did this because God had made a promise to my people.
Through the Prophet Isaiah God had declared that “Unto us a child would be given, unto us a son would be born. His name would be called ’Wonderful Counselor’, ’Mighty God’, Everlasting Father’, ’Prince of Peace.’ The government would be upon his shoulders, and of the increase of his government and of his peace there would be no end.”
Every Jewish family dreamed that God would honor them by allowing them to be the parents of this great messiah. They hoped that they would be permitted to raise the next King of Israel – a king promised to bring deliverance from the chains of bondage.
But… I am just carpenter.
A good carpenter, but still, just a carpenter.
I’m neither a prophet nor a priest, nor a man of regal blood such as a prince or king.
And Mary – sweet girl that she is – is of as humble background as I and my family are. We were under no illusions that we could actually become the parents of the great Messiah.
Our marriage was arranged… as were all marriages of that day. For more than a year before we physically became husband and wife our families became as one. We were intertwined. We would spend our days together. Eat together. Her parents would get to know me… and my parents would get to know her.
It was a good arrangement.
It became the strength of good families.
It was foundation of good marriages.
And Mary came from good stock.
She was a gentle girl – easy on the eyes.
The men of Nazareth envied me…
Then one day it was discovered (pause) that she was pregnant.
And I was not the father.
(pause and breathe deeply)
Her family was understandably upset.
Mine was devastated… shocked… angry
“Divorce her, quickly and publicly” they said.
But I like Mary
(climb the rest of the steps to the stage and turn again)
I’ve always liked Mary.
(pause, look down, pause look straight at the audience)
But, of course, they were right.
My parents would never accept her.
And the people of Nazareth would never forget.
If I took Mary as my wife, we would have to pack up my tools and move far enough away so that the taint of her shame would not follow us.
They were right.
It would best if I forgot her.
But how could I forget her…
Her eyes could melt my soul.
Her smile lit up a room.
Her voice… her voice was like (placed yourself so that your face would be lit up by the stage lighting) that of an angel.
(pause) Well, no.
Once you’ve heard the voice of a real angel there’s nothing quite like it.
The voice of a woman – at its best – is soft, and gentle, and comforting.
But the voice of an angel… is terrifying!
There I was, asleep on my bed, when suddenly the room was filled with light. And there at the foot of my bed… stood an angel.
“FEAR NOT!” he said
“Do not be afraid to take Mary to be your wife. For what is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And Mary shall give birth to a son and you shall give him the name Jesus. For He shall save His people from their sins.”
As the angel spoke, I felt a stirring within my heart, and I recalled an obscure passage from Isaiah that even the rabbis struggled with.
Speaking of the coming Messiah Isaiah wrote: “and he shall be pierced for our transgressions, he shall be crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brings us peace is upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.”
(as you speak gradually make your way down the steps on the other side of the stage and eventually return to the area in front of the pews)
There are those – to this very day – who wonder if I truly believed what the angel said to me that night.
And you know… they’re right.
I’d never spoken with an angel before!
Have you? (point to a person in the audience)
Have you? (point to a person in the audience)
As Mary’s pregnancy progressed, I increasingly wondered if I had truly heard the voice of an angel that night… or if I had merely imagined what I hoped to hear because I so much wanted Mary to be my wife.
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. It was decreed that everyone should return to the home of their family and register with the government.
Since I was of the family and of the line of David, I was required to return to our ancestral city – Bethlehem, far to the South. So I and Mary, who was far along in her pregnancy, made the long journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. But when we arrived, we found that so many people had come to Bethlehem to register that the Inn was full, there was no room for us.
Fortunately, we were able to find a cave just outside of town that was being used as a barn and found shelter there for the night.
That night, Mary gave birth to a son.
I cut the cord, washed his body and wrapped him in clean, warm cloths and laid him in a feeding trough – the manger where feed was placed for cattle. Then I sat down beside Mary and held her close.
We talked for a long time about visions we had received… and we wondered if what we had heard was really true.
Suddenly at the entrance of the cave (rush over to the side of the auditorium to create impression of cave’s entrace) we saw that some men had gathered.
There were 14, 15 of them. Shepherds who told us they had come a fair distance from the fields where their flocks were bedded down for the night.
They said that while they were watching over their sheep, the night suddenly became filled with light. A host of angels filled the sky singing praises to God:
“Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
One of the angels told them “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
So they had left their flocks and come to find out if what the angel had told them was true. Quietly, they gathered around the manger, and bowed in worship of our son.
Eight days later, as the law required, we took Jesus to the great city of Jerusalem to have Him circumcised, and to offer two turtledoves as a sacrifice to God. When we reached the place where this act was to be performed, the man who was to circumcise Him – his name was Simeon – took Jesus from us and raised Him up before God and offered thanks. He told us that God had promised him that he would not die before he had been allowed to see the Lord’s anointed.
No sooner had he said this, when an older lady, a prophetess of the temple named Anna, approached us and also gave praise to God for this child that would be salvation of Israel. She then spoke with everyone she met about our child.
We returned to Bethlehem and I set up shop to apply my trade as a carpenter.
For two years we lived there until – one day – strangers came to our home. They were visitors from a far off country who said they had seen a star in the East that their religion told them spoke of a great king being born. So they had followed the star for many months until they had come to our home. When they saw Jesus, they came and bowed in worship of him. And they gave us gifts of gold, frankincense and Myrrh.
If we had any doubts, by now they were completely removed.
(I picked up the carpenter’s tool again)
Now, the Gospels don’t tell you what a unique experience it was to be the step-father – if you will – of the Son of God. After Jesus was born, I fully took Mary to be my wife – for up until that time we had not slept together as husband and wife – and eventually she bore us 4 more sons and two daughters. But none of that could have prepared me for the responsibility of raising Jesus as our son.
For example, when he was 12, we took him with us to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover.
And we lost Him!
We searched for hours until, at last, we found him sitting in the temple, speaking with the rabbis and teachers of the Law… and He spoke as one who was intimately familiar with the Scriptures!
As He grew older, I taught Jesus my craft… but it seemed He rarely had time to work. People would enter our shop and ask questions of Him that they would never ask of the Rabbis and the scribes.
And when He did work, He often used the money He received to give to the poor.
It seemed like Jesus was always giving things away.
Even during His ministry, He gave things to people
There was a man who had been crippled since his birth – and Jesus gave him new legs.
He met another man who was blind – and gave him new eyes.
A young man who had been tormented by the powers of darkness and was dangerous to be around… and Jesus gave him a new mind.
A terrible disease had taken the life of a young girl – and He gave her new life.
Jesus gave to everyone.
As the scriptures tell us: He did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!
That was the reason He came – to give His life for ours.
As the prophecy had said: “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for iniquities. The punishment that brought us peace was upon Him and by His wounds we were healed.
He suffered all that for us.
He gave His life for us so that we might have new eyes, a new mind, a new life.
And He did all this because He chose to.
Jesus wasn’t forced to die on the cross… He chose that kind of death… because He chose us.
That decision on the part of God leaves only one thing yet to be done.
God chose you.
Will you chose Him?
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