Sunday, January 20, 2008

JOseph's Story

Chaos? I’ll tell you about chaos! For months now my life has been one bit of chaos after another.

First I went to see Joachim to talk about arrangements for a marriage between myself and his daughter Mary. Planning for such a thing is at least disruptive and life-changing. But then, just as the arrangement is announced news starts floating around town that Mary is pregnant. Now that moves us quickly from simple disruption into chaos.

What was I supposed to do? If I cancelled our arrangement Mary and her whole family would be shamed. If I went forward I risked being labelled a cuckold and a fool before the marriage was even finalized. I wanted to do the right thing, but in the middle of all the voices telling me what to do I wasn’t sure what was right and good. It seemed that my life was crumbling around me.

You see I had chosen Mary on purpose. It wasn’t just a good business match between her father and I. It wasn’t that she came from a good family. Over the years I had come to know Mary and I sincerely liked her. We could talk and laugh together. I wanted to spend time with her. I certainly didn’t want to leave her to shame and possible stoning. I also didn’t want to give up on what might have been. My mind was a mess.

Then came the dream. The famous dream where an angel came to me and told me what was happening. So I went forward with the betrothal. Not that this lessened the chaos. I was called a fool and worse by people around the town. Mary and I were well on our way to being outcasts. Only the strength of my family reputation saved us. And Mary, well there was something about her that was different. She has always been a dreamer but after she returned from her cousin Elizabeth’s her dreams were grandiose.

And just as life was settling down it all got turned upside down. The blasted Romans, fools that they are, ordered that all of us return to the town of our forefathers for a census. Just another way to get taxes out of us I say. But no matter how foolish it was, we weren’t about to take on the Legions. So now the whole countryside was thrown into chaos.

Imagine half the population wandering the highways. The roads were beyond crowded, families got separated, people were almost trampled. But we had to go. Mary was near her time but still we had to go. So we made the long difficult trip to Bethlehem in the land of my ancestors. This was the time when the chaos was also a help. If the roads hadn’t been so crowded the journey would have been far more dangerous. Still, I was worried about my betrothed, quickly becoming my beloved. As we reached Bethlehem she was sure that the child was about to come.

Then, to make matters worth, there was no housing to be found. No where to stay, no idea where to find a midwife. If I thought things had been chaotic before, they were far worse now. Mary was about to have a baby and the only place I could find for us was a little hole where they kept animals. I felt like a failure.

That was the first time I was at a birth. It was hellish. There was screaming and blood and, well, chaos. I was beginning to wonder when I would know anything but chaos again. But then they called me over. I bent down and picked up this tiny little boy. He would be my son and I would be his father. And as I sat there in the straw beside Mary with this tiny bundle of cloth and flesh in my hands I was hit by a wave of calmness. Even last night in the midst of all that chaos I found a point of calm.

I know that life will not always be easy. I know that being a poor peasant under brutal Imperial occupation will often be disrupted and chaotic. But as long as I remember last night with that baby I will know that calm is possible. That is all I need to know. Calm is possible.

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