He felt the rumbling in the village long before he heard the news. Word traveled fast in a small town like Nazareth. Groups of women clucked together at the market or by the village well. God help their next victim. He would be pecked to pieces by morning.
Joseph checked his tools and headed for the synagogue. If he hurried, he could finish the repair work at the rabbi’s house before dark.
The rumbling stilled as Joseph walked through town. Eyebrows raised. Faces probed and searched as he passed. Some showed pity. He shook his head. What was wrong with everyone?
He knocked on the door of the rabbi’s house. The rabbi’s wife’s eyes widened when she saw him, but she bit her lip and invited him in.
Joseph greeted the rabbi, “I came to work on…” He caught sight of his future father-in-law standing behind the rabbi. Joseph began again, but the rabbi interrupted him.
“Joseph, please join us.”
“No, thank you. Really, I must get to work. Daylight is fading. Just wanted to say hello.” His voice dried up as both men turned toward him with faces of stone.
“Joseph, sit down.”
Moments later, his world lay in shambles.
That night, Joseph lay in his sweat and prayed for a breeze. Stars peeked through his window but shed little light on his dilemma.
And tomorrow, the pecking of the town hens would come right at them.
Which would be worse, the words—or the stones?
He had run through his options more times than he could count, but it was a short list.
He would speak to the rabbi in the morning. Divorce her quietly. They would go their own ways, and Mary would live. Perhaps she could return to her relative’s house near Jerusalem, away from the gossip of Nazareth.
Curtains fluttered as a breeze frisked through the room. His brow cooled, and Joseph slept.
A few stars sprinkled the early morning sky. Joseph thanked God his father-in-law was an early riser. Joseph headed for the stable and waited for him there, the dream fresh in his mind. When Mary’s father appeared, his face was lined and worn. Joseph thought he’d aged twenty years in twenty-four hours. Joseph, however, felt sharp and alert. He made his point quickly.
The older man listened without interrupting. “You have chosen a difficult path.” He jerked his head toward the village. “They will never let you forget.”
Joseph nodded. “I know.”
Mary’s father put an arm around Joseph’s shoulder and together, they walked to the house.
It was time for a wedding.
Put yourself in Joseph’s sandals. How would you have felt after hearing news of the pregnancy?
How would you have responded to such a dream?
As Jesus grew up in Nazareth, what kinds of things did the family endure?
Joseph: Did public opinion affect his business?
Mary: Was she shunned by the other women?
Jesus: Was He bullied? Teased?
Siblings: Were they embarrassed? Did they believe the story?
What does this part of the Christmas story teach us about how to treat others?