June 2017  
SMTWTFS
    123
45678910
11121314151617
18192021222324
252627282930 
     
Bible Search
Northside Journal Christmas

This is a four part series concerning some of those involved in the greatest miracle of our world, the birth of God’s Son, Jesus Christ.

CHAPTER ONE

This is not exactly how I pictured giving birth to my firstborn child… especially since He is to be the Messiah, long hoped and prayed for.  But here I am sitting on straw in a stable, with only animals and my dear Joseph for companions.  Thankfully, they are quiet tonight; perhaps they know what is about to transpire after all, they were created by the hand of this young Son I will soon give birth to.

It seems only yesterday that the angel Gabriel came to my home in Nazareth and startled me with his sudden appearance and message.  I was alone in my room and then here was this amazing form of an angel…I assumed he was an angel since he neither opened nor closed the door to my room, yet there he was with his message, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!"  I could not imagine what he meant by “highly favored one”… my goodness; our home was clean and pleasant but hardly affluent or even graceful.  Besides that, I had never done anything that others were impressed with or excited about.  Then his words, “Blessed are you among women”, really puzzled me.  With the exception of my sweet Joseph I had nothing that other women would desire.  So, what was this all about?  Then he continued, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS.  He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David…And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end."

                That was not possible.  I was married, but only in betrothal to Joseph, we had not lived together as man and wife, though I was waiting any day for him to appear and take me to the wedding feast where we would begin our life together.  So I said to him, “How can this be since I do not know a man?”  And he answered me, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.  Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren.  For with God nothing will be impossible."

                Though it all happened quickly, I had no fear or doubt that this really was an angel from God and I had been chosen to bring forth the Messiah.  All the problems that would come with this pregnancy would be taken care of by the Lord who had chosen me; so I said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord!  Let it be to me according to your word."  And the angel departed from me.

                There I was, sitting alone again, Gabriel had left just as mysteriously as he had appeared, and my mind began to reel with the knowledge of what had just transpired.  I was to give birth to God’s Son!  How this would be I did not understand, I only knew that if the Holy Spirit was to be a part of this conception, I was a willing vessel.  The thoughts began to run through my mind…What about Joseph?  Would he understand?  Would he believe me?  Should I tell him?  How can I tell him?  When should I tell him?  So many questions, but there was only one answer…The Lord will do what is needed.  After all, he did say, “For with God nothing will be impossible.”

                Then I realized something Gabriel had said that did not register right away…Elizabeth was also going to have a baby.  Oh what joy I felt for my cousin Elizabeth and her precious husband, Zacharias.  After all these years, and now when they should be grandparents, the Lord had blessed them with a child!  I knew I had to see her; somehow she was a part of this event that was taking place in my life.  I decided to ask Papa and Mama for permission to journey to Judea and visit with her.  She would need help… after all birthing a child at her age will not be easy.  First, I would tell them about my pregnancy, about the message and visit from Gabriel.  Would they believe I was pregnant by God’s Holy Spirit?  Regardless, I would tell them – they had to know.

                That was a day I wish I could erase from my mind because they did not believe me.  I could not believe it…I know it sounded impossible, but it was true.  The look on their faces will always haunt me.  Then Papa said something that almost sent me into despair. He would get word to Joseph of my pregnancy and perhaps Joseph would show mercy.  He truly was a righteous and just man.  But that very righteousness would cause him to divorce me, or worse have me stoned.  I wanted to tell him myself, but father said it was not my place…he had set the marriage up long ago and he would be the one to end it.

                My heart was broken enough that they did not believe, but to lose my Joseph… to be unable to tell him this child will be the Son of God – that was a true knife in my soul.  But then, I knew somehow that all this would be taken care of also.  Had not Gabriel said, “For with God nothing will be impossible”?  If I could not tell Joseph, the Lord would.

                 I then asked if I could go visit Elizabeth and help her with her last months of pregnancy.  Papa did not believe she was carrying a baby either, but he did agree to my visit.  He said it would make the decisions that were coming easier if I was not there.  How I wish he would have believed me!  How I wish, even now sitting in this barn, that he would understand that this child is to be called “the Son of the Highest”.  Instead, he believes this to be Joseph’s child at best.  He doesn’t know how to deal with Joseph, for either he is one of the most gracious and honorable men he has ever known – who would take an unfaithful, betrothed wife and raise her child as his own – or he was not as righteous as he seemed to be.  Perhaps one day, he will understand and believe.

                Those three months with Elizabeth were wonderful!  The joy on her face when she saw me!  It was more than the excitement of a long loved cousin; it was truly something special.  She knew!  Before I ever spoke a word, she knew!  When I entered their home and greeted Zacharias, Elizabeth came out of her room and began this most wonderful acknowledgment of what was happening in my life.  She said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!  But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?  For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.  Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord."  Oh, it was so good to know that someone knew the truth; I needed so desperately to express my excitement and yet my fears.  Now, I had my precious Elizabeth and her special gift from God, John.  Before I could respond to the excitement of sharing this wonderful experience, I felt the power of God coursing through my body and I opened my mouth and spoke by the power of the Holy Spirit, “My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.  For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; for behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.  For He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name.  And His mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation.  He has shown strength with His arm; He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.  He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted the lowly.  He has filled the hungry with good things,

and the rich He has sent away empty.  He has helped His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy, as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed forever."

                I stayed with Elizabeth and Zacharias for three months, but my apparent pregnancy was beginning to bring difficulty to these precious people who loved the Lord so much, so I decided it was time to return home.  I knew I would miss the birth of their John, the forerunner of my soon to be born Son, Jesus.  I left with a heavy heart, and with a spirit of hope.  I did not know what awaited me at home – would my parents still be angry?  Would Joseph divorce me?  Would my friends and acquaintances reject me?  The answers to these questions I did not know. But there was one thing I did know, I was to give birth to the coming Messiah and the Lord would be with me every step of the way.

                Walking into my home just before evening, I was told by Papa that Joseph had been told of my return and was to meet with our family in the morning.  Once again the aching pain on my parents’ face cut me so deeply.  If only they could believe!  If only they could understand that I had been faithful to all the teaching they had given me!  If only my Joseph could somehow know!  It took hours for me to finally fall asleep whispering my prayer through tears, “Father, please show Joseph, please reveal to him what You have asked of me.”

                The noise was a part of a dream… or was it real?  Slowly I awakened to the sound of banging on the door of our home.  I heard Papa speaking to someone who was very excited.  Then the knocking was at my door… bewildered, I opened it and there stood Joseph!  Behind him was my father, stunned, with tears streaming from his face.  Joseph had come to claim me as his bride!  It was his right of betrothal, and he wanted to take me to his home.  Streams of tears clouded my vision so much I could not even see his smiling face, but I felt the strength of his carpenter’s arms around me and his whispers of “forgive me for doubting you”.  God had told him everything in a vision and he had come to claim me as his bride.  We walked out of the door with blessings being spoken on us by Papa and Mama and I walked hand in hand with my husband tears streaming from our faces to my new home.

                Joseph knew that this child I carried belonged to God and he never touched me as his wife these six months.  I wish I could say that all was well in Nazareth, but the looks continued – the whispers and turned backs as I shopped in the city market place.  The things that were said hurt me deeply, but I would take a lifetime of whispers and turned backs for this privilege to bring into this world my Son, my Savior – the fulfillment of Abraham’s promise.

                So here I am, still sitting in the straw of the manger, with contractions coming regularly.  My poor Joseph, as strong and righteous a man as he is, continues to apologize for not having a better place for this most holy birth.  But, I know all will be well.  I may not understand the purpose of such a lowly birth, but I know that God would not cause harm to come to His only begotten Son.

 

CHAPTER TWO

I’m so worried about Mary.  This journey has been too hard for her and the baby she carries.  As I look on her now, laboring to bring forth the Christ child, I wonder how it can be that we are about to deliver this Child in a barn.  How could I have failed to properly prepare for her?  She is so gentle, pure, and uncomplaining – this is not what either of us expected. 

What an amazing situation this is…Only six months ago, I was still a bachelor, looking forward to the day I would take her to be my wife.  We had known for years that we would be married one day; our parents had arranged it long before we were even interested in such things.  Then the day came for our betrothal!  I had asked my best friend, Jakin, to go to Mary’s parents and confirm my agreement to wed their daughter.  He preformed the appropriate oaths and gave my presents to the bride and to the parents.  Then came the feast to celebrate our betrothal!  This was the day I realized how beautiful this girl truly was, not just physically, but the inner person was so peaceful and pure.  There was a glow about Mary, one that came from deep within and shone out like the morning sun.  I fell in love with that inner person immediately!  This young lady from Nazareth had stolen my heart without a doubt.

What a joy it was to place the wedding ring, which was a token of my love and fidelity, on the finger of her delicate little hand.  We understood the betrothal usually lasted for one year, during which we would be known as husband and wife, although we would not live together as man and wife until after the wedding feast which would come at the end of the one-year period. I was looking forward with great anticipation the day I would appear at her home and call her out to the feast and then take her home as my wife.

During the first months of our betrothal, we spent many hours together, talking about our dreams of a family and long life together surrounded by children and eventually, grandchildren.  I was expanding my house and even my carpenter shop, including a new carved sign:  Joseph and Sons Carpentry.

Then came the news that broke my heart and stunned me beyond belief.  I wanted to throw my fist into the mouth of my friend as he came with the news… Mary was pregnant!  Pregnant!?  It was not possible, not my Mary who was so pure and gentle of spirit. I would not believe it until I heard it myself!  I went to her home and her father met me at the door, but he could not look me in the face… he only hung his head and said it was true.  Stunned once again, I walked numb with unbelief – sick within – by this betrayal.  Wandering down the streets, I wondered how many of these people who turned from my gaze knew of my humiliation.  My grief began to turn to anger.  I knew the law; I studied it more than the rabbis of Nazareth.  Moses had written the law in the book of Deuteronomy,  "If a young woman who is a virgin is betrothed to a husband, and a man finds her in the city and lies with her, then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city, and you shall stone them to death with stones, the young woman because she did not cry out in the city, and the man because he humbled his neighbor's wife; so you shall put away the evil from among you”.  I had my rights!  I would find out who had taken my bride – he would die for this treachery!

The decision was made!  I went back to Mary’s house to tell her myself, but her father said she had gone to Jerusalem to visit with her cousins, Zacharias and Elizabeth who had just recently conceived their first child in their old age.  It wasn’t fair!  They would be the ones to enjoy their children running around, their giggling and laughing sounding like music to their ears… and me?  I would be dying inside as I remember only the dreams of a life with my precious Mary.

Weeks went by as I battled with the anger of betrayal.  I knew anger was not from God, but it was so hard in those first days, not knowing who had taken my dreams from me.  But, as the time went by, so did the anger.  I no longer wanted to know who the man was; I no longer wanted to see him or Mary stoned.  I would simply divorce her.  At first, I thought of publicly bringing her before the judge, but I could not even do that.  My love for her would not die – I even thought of saying nothing but simply take her as my wife and raise this child as my own. But, I knew that every time I would see him I would be reminded of the betrayal; so, the decision was made to divorce her privately and go on with my life.

Three months had passed when the word had come that Mary was coming back to her parents’ home.  Though I had made my decision, it still turned my stomach to think of seeing her and not being able to touch her ever again.  That night sleep escaped me for hours, but finally in exhaustion I had fallen asleep.  Then suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared to me in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins." I was awakened immediately with an awesome joy that is impossible to describe.  As impossible as it sounded, it made perfect sense to me!  My precious Mary was to be the mother of our promised Messiah!  How we had longed for His coming, we prayed everyday for our Redeemer to come and free us from bondage, but who knew He would come like this. Who knew and who cared!  Mary was still pure and faithful and she would be mine that very night.  I rose from my bed, dressed and ran through the village to her home.  Finally, after pounding on the door, her father shouted he was coming and then demanded to know who was at his door that this ungodly hour.  When he heard my voice, the door opened slowly and this faithful man would not even look up to speak to me.  His question told me he did not know of this wonderful coming birth. His question?  “Have you come for Mary? Could it not wait until daylight?”  With a smile that seemed to stretch my face farther than flesh will allow I said, “Yes! I have come to claim my betrothed right to have my bride tonight!”  The shock on his face made me smile even bigger so I took his silence as a ‘yes’ and went to the door to Mary’s room. In my excitement I probably knocked too hard, but nothing mattered except to claim my bride.  When she opened that door and saw the huge smile that stretched across my face, no words were needed.  She leaped into my arms crying, “Thank You, Father.  Thank You, Father.”  With tears now racing down my face and into my beard, I pulled her back and looked into her teary brown eyes and said, “Let’s go home!”

These past six months have not been easy of either of us.  The people of Nazareth have not treated us very well.  I know the looks and whispers hurt Mary and I must remind myself that one day they will understand the truth of this wonderful birth.  But until then, their misjudging of us is little compared to the awesome privilege we have been chosen to raise the Messiah.

So, why are we in a stable with only animals as witnesses to the most amazing event in the history of the world… the birth of the Messiah?  Caesar has ordered a tax and census be taken in our city of origin.  Since I am of the tribe of Judah and my ancestor, King David was from Bethlehem, I had to come with Mary, ready to deliver this special child.  But then should not the new King of Israel be born in Bethlehem as prophesied?  What a thought!  The King of the Jews being born in a stable….“Truly Lord, You are mysterious in all Your ways.”

CHAPTER THREE

This night started like every other night for 20 yrs.  There we were in the hills outside Bethlehem caring for our sheep instead of sleeping at home with the wife and kids.  Being a shepherd has it advantages, like seeing the sun rise to bring us a new day or seeing it set with all its glory.  Others think I’m crazy choosing the life of shepherd, “after all” they say “you can make a lot more money as a merchant or farmer or laborer and not smell like those old sheep.”  But, let them say what they may, as a matter of fact let them look down their noses at me, I really don’t care. I enjoy being outdoors, I enjoy having a flock of sheep follow me, knowing my voice and answering to my call.  I know where the sweetest meadows in all Judea are, and I know where the water pools up when there is no rain for a month.  I know how to protect my flock, using either my staff or my sling.  Besides, was it not from the sheep folds that the Lord called the great King David right here in these very same hills?

Yes, I love being a shepherd, but never more than tonight!  We were sitting around the camp fire enjoying the clear dark night, thankful to be in the quiet of the meadows instead of the packed streets of Bethlehem. Our conversation centered on all the folks who were back in Bethlehem after all these years.  We were seeing cousins, aunts and uncles and even in-laws that had not been back for ten or more years.  They were all down there swarming like bees around the census takers.  Most were very unhappy, having been forced to return to a little town with only one inn that was constantly full. 

It was just about time to turn in for the night when suddenly an enormous, bright light shone around us and there stood this man shining from head to foot. I’ll be honest, I’ve faced a lion trying to take one of my lambs and beat him off with my staff, I’ve had to join other shepherds to drive off a bear that was circling our flock, but never did my knees knock against each other like they did at that very moment. I was plumb scared!  Then he spoke to us, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger."  I know my chin was touching the ground, when suddenly all of heaven opened up and thousands of angels began to speak to us saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!"  Then as suddenly as they had appeared they were gone.  At first, I didn’t say a thing, I wasn’t sure that I was really awake.  I looked around and there were my fellow shepherd’s with their mouths hanging wide open too.  Then all of a sudden as if we had awakened from a dream, we all began to speak at the same time; “Did you see that?” “Am I dreaming?” What in the world was that about?” 

After so many unanswered questions, we agreed we would go to Bethlehem and see this thing that had come to pass, which the Lord had made known to us. As we were running into Bethlehem, someone shouted “What about the sheep?” and someone else shouted, “Don’t worry about them, there are a thousand angels back there taking our place!” And with that we rushed to find the stable with a Babe lying in it.  That was not very difficult since this new star seemed to be shinning over the town.  We ran in its direction and found the most wondrous sight!  There just like the angel had said sat a young mother next to a feed trough that had been filled with fresh hay which held a baby wrapped in the plain cloth of Israel’s common people.  Next to them stood this big guy with rough hands and big arms, but with the gentle features of a man of God.  We knew this was her husband and that he was a common man like us. Besides them there were no other people, only barn animals that stood there amazingly quiet, as though they somehow knew this little human was something special indeed.  There was never a scene so beautiful!  All the waterfalls of Judea paled in comparison to this sight; all the green meadows lying between great barren mountains seemed as withered fields compared to this precious child.  Suddenly one of the shepherds broke the stillness of the night with a shout of “Hallelujah”, startling everyone of us.  But before I could shush him, this lovely lady, named Mary broken into sweet laughter, followed by the joyfully laugh of her husband, Joseph.  It even seemed that the Babe, Jesus, had a smile.  Well, that released us all into shouts of “Praise Jehovah!  Glory to the Lord Most High!  Hallelujah to our great God!”  We could not contain ourselves, we began to run through the streets with our shouts of joy, knocking on doors and telling everyone the things we had heard and seen.  We told them God had sent His Messiah to Israel and we had seen Him in the stable here in Bethlehem!  We created quiet a stir that night, waking folks and jumping up and down like little children in the streets.

Who would have ever believed it!  The Messiah has come to earth and of all places… in a stable in Bethlehem.  I know most people don’t believe us, but that doesn’t matter right now, for we have seen Him with our own eyes.   And what an amazing thing, God has chosen to bring the Messiah to earth as a commoner.  Not being born in the palace at Jerusalem, not being heralded to the princes or priests of Israel, but to common shepherds!  This is not what we expected from our Messiah.  Perhaps He has come for a different reason that we expect.  Could it be that he has come to seek out the lost and lonely rather than the royal and wealthy?   I for one will be watching this one called “Jesus”.

 

CHAPTER FOUR

 (Not yet written)