My dear friend asked me to tell the untold stories of the nativity story for the Christmas play at church. Sure we all know it, but have we really thought about these people as … people? They were tired, hungry, hopeful, scared. All the same emotions we experience every day, but for some reason we’re eager to overlook that because it happened so long ago. People are people no matter if you’re riding a donkey in sandals, or a Nissan Murano in Sketchers.
So here is the first story dedicated to a much overlooked player, Joseph. This man loved Mary so much that he married her despite her carrying a Child not his own, and then raised the Boy as any true father would.
It must be near midnight. The homes so familiar to me stand quietly as their occupants drift into slumber. Behind me, Mary gasps.
“Don’t worry, Mary. Soon I’ll have you safely tucked in a warm bed.” I pray the worry pounding inside me doesn’t show… for her sake and the babe within. My heart stutters. The babe. The Child the Lord Himself has entrusted to my dear Mary. And I am to keep her safe. But how can I fulfill the Lord’s command when I can’t even find a roof to put over her head?
Coming to another door I once knew well from childhood, I knock. Once, twice, three times. A light flickers in the window and the door pushes open. “Joseph? Is that you, old friend?”
“Yes, yes, it’s me. Please, I know it’s late, but my wife needs rest.” I step back to reveal Mary clutching her swollen belly. It wouldn’t be long now.
My friend shakes his head. “I’m so sorry, but we have no room. The census has brought everyone to town and every spare space we have is taken.” Compassion fills his eyes as he looks at her. “Try the inn around the corner.”
“Not long now, Mary.” But my panic is mounting. If I can’t even find a place to stay the night for my pregnant wife, how am I supposed to take care of a family? How can I call myself father to our Savior?
“What if the inn has no room for us?” Mary’s breath spasms on another burst of pain.
I quicken my pace. “God will provide.” These are words I repeat to myself daily, hourly since the angel set my feet to this path. I wish to follow the Lord in all things, but it’s often difficult to keep my faith from wavering. His purpose overwhelms me, and I question my part in all of it. But one look at my beloved Mary’s face, and I know that I can never abandon her just as surely as I can never abandon my faith. God will provide.
I knock on the door of our last hope, and a sleepy innkeeper shuffles out. His head begins to shake and I feel my spirit sag. Mary’s fingers dig into my shoulder. Her face contorts with pain.
“Joseph, the babe. He’s nearly here.”
“Please. I may have a place, but it’s with the animals. I’m sorry it’s all I can offer.” The innkeeper points a few paces away.
The overwhelming smell of unwashed animals, oats, and dirt fills the air, but it’s dry and sheltered from the elements. It could not be further from the place God’s Son deserved to come into His world. I slip my arm around my wife to steady her and press a kiss to her damp forehead. “I told you, Mary. God has provided.”