There was a moment, just before he went to sleep, when he thought of rejecting her. She came with her mother in the early afternoon, full of tears, a young girl, uncertain of the future, afraid of what was coming. She just blurted it out.
“I’m pregnant!”, she said.
“How?” he asked. “Who?”
“Don’t know”, she said.
But there was no doubting the pregnancy. The bump was beginning to show in her slight figure.
“But I thought you weren’t ready yet!” he said.
They were betrothed, engaged to be married, and waiting for the time when her body was mature enough for marriage. He was still waiting for her mother’s go-ahead.
She had some story about seeing an angel who told her she was going to bear a child. Humph! He was a devout man, but he wasn’t gullible. He knew she was young and innocent, but she couldn’t tell him who the man who looked like an angel was. He just wanted to know who it was, who had taken her. He was angry that someone had forced himself on her or tricked her into it. But there was nothing could be done about it now.
He had spent all afternoon thinking it through, the ins, the outs, the whys, the wherefores. It was a long time before he got to sleep, but by then it was clear in his mind. She would have to go. Quietly though, because he didn’t wish her any harm, poor thing. Send her away to a distant relative. Cancel the engagement. Cancel the wedding. Move on.
Sleep was fitful. His unconscious mind still sifting through the dilemma, not quite wanting to let go of the bonny girl who had been promised to him. Lots of troubling dreams.
His name was Joseph. He was a dreamer, like that Joseph so many years ago, Joseph who was the son of Israel and saved his brothers and all the family from starvation. The family often joked about Joseph’s dreams.
And then in amongst the confused and fleeting images, there was a different kind of dream. An angel. She, Mary, had mentioned an angel. He, Joseph, had discounted it. But this angel was looking straight at him. And his voice was clear in his head.
“Don’t send her away, Joseph Davidson. Don’t be afraid. Go ahead with the marriage and take care of her. This child is the work of God’s Holy Spirit. Don’t fret about the hows and the whos. What matters is that God is behind this. It is all part of God’s plan. This child has work to do for God.”
The angel finished his speech. Joseph woke up, straight away, alert and alive, every word echoing in his mind. It was only then that he felt the impact of his dream. This was more than a dream, this was a direct message. It wasn’t something he could ignore. And it felt right.
He didn’t get back to sleep again that night. In the morning, as soon as it was respectable to go calling, he went to visit Mary and his parents and told them his plan. He would marry Mary straight away, and everyone would think that he was the father of the baby. That would be OK.
They were so relieved, Anna and Joachim and Mary herself, and so grateful.
There was the odd moment, however, when Mary wondered whether her happiness and her desire to serve God really depended on a man’s willingness to protect her and not to put her to shame, but she liked Joseph and knew she would come to love him in time. He was gentle and kind, and he meant well. And for the moment, she needed him.
And there was the odd moment for Joseph too when he felt the odd pang looking at the little child in Mary’s arms, knowing that he wasn’t actually the biological father, but whether he liked it or not, he had to be this child’s earthly father. It wasn’t a perfect situation by any means. But mostly, Joseph just got on with it. Real life is full of compromise.
“This is what you get”, thought Joseph, as he looked down at the sleeping child that first night, “when you listen to angels, when you let God’s Holy Spirit work. Things don’t happen the way you want or expect, but that’s OK.”