The Christmas Story Retold
Caesar Augustus the Roman Emporer needed to make a census of all the families in Judea which meant Joseph had to register his, but he was concerned.
‘I will register my children, but this unborn child, what will I do about him? How will I register him and my wife?’
But Joseph remembered the angel that appeared to him in a dream. He would therefore do as the Lord wanted. Joseph and his family had to make a journey to his ancestral home, the city of Bethlehem.
(Note.It is recorded in the gospels of Matthew and Mark that Joseph's children included James, Justus, Jude, SImon and sisters. Also, where the family were living at this time is unclear for they went and lived in Nazareth after Joseph, Mary and Jesus returned from Egypt. It is more likely they lived closer to Jerusalem where Mary had dwelt in the house of God until she was twelve years of age.}
Continuing with the account of Joseph's son James, at least Joseph, two of his sons plus his daughter Salome, who was named after her mother, Joseph's first wife, and Mary laden upon an ass, left home and set off for Bethlehem. However, before they reached their destination Mary was feeling anxious,
‘Joseph, please take me off the donkey, the child is pushing from within; his time has come.’
Although they were still in a desert place Joseph found a cave, laid her within and with his two sons standing guard he went off in search of a Hebrew midwife.
Led to him by God, a midwife found Joseph whom he informed as to the divine parentage of the baby to be born. She therefore accompanied him back to the cave but as they approached they marvelled to see a dark cloud hovering over it.
‘My soul glorifies this day, for today my eyes have seen a miracle; salvation has come to Israel.’ She declared.
Immediately the cloud then withdrew from the cave only for a great light to appear within that was so bright their eyes could not look upon it. But in a little while the light withdrew and there appeared before them a wondrous sight. In that humble and desolate cave sat a mother with an infant in her arms who she tenderly drew to her breast.
So, after all, the midwife had not been required to aid the birth. However Salome, Joseph’s daughter, would not believe that Mary, after giving birth, was still a virgin. But Mary allowed herself to be examined by Salome. For this Salome was at first punished, but then healed and was allowed to hold the baby, whom she then worshipped.
Now strangely, James writings make no mention of the first visitors to that cave where the saviour of the world was born. But it was revealed to Luke. Humble shepherds arrived at the cave having been summoned by angels while they were keeping watch over their flocks that night. But fitting it was that shepherds should come and worship He who was sent to earth to be the Lamb of God.
But James does record the visit of astrologers, wise me from the east, as recorded in the Gospel of Matthew. They first arrived in Jerusalem and had audience with King Herod before being led by a star to the cave where Christ was born. He also records Herod’s fury and persecution of those children two years of age and younger. In particular his soldiers searched for John, the son of the high priest Zacharias and Elizabeth. He also describes how Elizabeth escaped into the wilderness with her son John and is miraculously hidden within a mountain that cleaves in two But Zacharias, who refuses to tell where John was hiding, was murdered as he served at the altar of God’s Temple.
At the same time, as recorded in Matthew's Gospel, it was revealed to Joseph to flee to Egypt where the family was secure until after the death of Herod and be safe to return home and dwell in Nazareth.
Guido Reni (Bologna 1575-1642) St Joseph with the Infant Jesus
Believe, Love, Do.
A Personal Reflection
Down through the ages artists, writers musicians, actors and composers have interpreted the account of the birth of the Son of God and contributed to the mystery. But Jesus came not to please himself but to bring us to His Father in Heaven. It is easy to forget the one who is above all but who is seldom represented and perhaps forgotten.
Although the inspired painting opposite is of Joseph holding the baby Jesus, for me it suggests John 3:16,
‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’
So to the Father of us all I thank Him for giving us, His Son.