It was quiet in the stable now. The only people left were his wife, his son, and himself. The baby had been calm while people came and went, but now he was getting fussy. His wife was resting, so he picked the Child up and began walking back and forth.
It had been quite a year.
The betrothal ceremony had been beautiful. He began building their house immediately after it ended, as he didn’t want to wait one extra minute to bring his new wife into his home. He paid careful attention to every detail, so the house would be as lovely as she was. When he wasn’t working, he was with her, delighting in her company and her love.
When she told him that she had to go to help her cousin Elizabeth, he helped her prepare for the trip to make sure that she would have everything she could possibly need. She would be gone for several months, and while he would miss her, he would use the time to complete the preparations on their home.
He was nearly finished when she returned.
And then his world collapsed around him. She was obviously expecting. He knew that the Child was not his. As the family greeted her, the air rang with congratulatory messages. After all, a child was a sure sign that God had blessed their marriage, especially when one came so quickly.
He said nothing as everyone celebrated around him. He was sure that when he and his wife were alone, an explanation would be forthcoming, although he could not imagine what that explanation could possibly be. But there was no explanation – there was only silence.
He did not know what to do. She could see that he was hurt and confused and angry, and yet she said nothing. He could tell that she suffered with him, and still she said nothing. She was kind and loving and attentive to him, but she remained silent.
He knew that if he denounced her, she would be severely punished. Adulterous women could be stoned. He knew that it was his right to do that, but he loved her and he would not see her hurt through any action of his.
He knew that he could pretend that all was well, and simply finish the house and bring her to it. But he was an honest man, and he would not live a lie.
Finally, he decided that only thing he could do if he was to be true to himself was to divorce her without saying why. In the eyes of family and neighbors, it would look like he was abandoning her and the child. He would be blamed for doing so, and would become a pariah to all since men who did such things were considered scum. But, although he knew that he was blameless, he was willing to carry the guilt for her because he loved her. It would be his last gift to her.
That was when the angel came, with the explanation of Who, exactly, his wife was carrying and what that Child was coming to do. And he understood why she had been silent, and why he had needed to make his own decision about his response first. This Child was entering the world to assume the punishment for all, and he needed a guardian who could understand that kind of love.
The journey to Bethlehem had been more than difficult. He had padded the donkey as much as he could to make the trip easier for her, and stopped frequently to let her rest. Nevertheless, he could sense her discomfort, although she only smiled and thanked him for his thoughtfulness. By the time they arrived, every inn was full. He tried not to show her how worried he was, and he knew that she was doing the same thing for him. He could not believe how she trusted him to make things right.
Finally, when he did not know what else to try, they learned about a stable, right on the outskirts of the town. It was warm and dry. He helped her to get settled in. As it turned out, they were just in time for the birth.
He had not been expecting an angelic chorus or a parade of shepherds. Looking back, he should not have been so surprised – of course heaven would greet its King.
But now all was quiet. It was just he and wife and his tiny Son. And Joseph knew that he would love and protect them both forever.
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