As St Joseph has come under the spotlight since Pope Francis announced, on December 8, that a year is being dedicated to him, I decided to share this story, that was part of my 2016 Mercy Minutes. It is a reflection on his place in the Holy Family and his relationships. One can only imagine how it would be a very different reality in 2020 with all kinds of travel restrictions.
I also discovered in my library and promptly read a book Two from Galilee, subtitled the Love Story of Mary and Joseph. It gives a very human picture of their experience in those months around the birth of Jesus. Luke’s gospel certainly sanitises the human side of what must have been a very challenging reality. What do we know about Joseph anyway? Was he an older man or were they a young couple in love and betrothed to be married? Does it matter? Humanising scripture accounts was encouraged by St Francis when he arranged for the first crib and also for St Ignatius in some reflections. It is certainly a wonderful idea for families at this time, even to use different characters that express the message, for example Charlie Brown’s Christmas. But let’s not forget that JESUS IS THE REASON FOR THE SEASON, not Santa.
I shared a number of stories from the LOVE CAME DOWN AT CHRISTMASTIME booklet and my previous Advent and Christmas reflections on Family Matters on Radio Veritas over the next weeks. Do listen in on Wednesdays 9-10am. 576AM, DWTV 870 or streaming online. Each DAILY THOUGHT is of course published on www.marfam.org.za and also linked with my facebook and twitter pages. Check out the extracts from this week on the website too.
Joseph’s Christmas, South Africa 2016. Joseph was nearly frantic with worry as they set out from Nazareth on their way to Bethlehem. Would they get there in time? Where would they stay? He had some distant relatives, but then most of Bethlehem would be filled with distant relatives. That is why there was so much traffic on the road. The best he could do for Mary, his sweet beloved Mary, about to be a mother, was make her as comfortable as he could in the back of the van. At least the car was behaving, not bucking like a donkey as it sometimes did. Unlike Joseph’s anxious mood there was a calmness, a radiance almost like a halo, around Mary as she sang softly to herself and to her unborn baby.
Hour after hour the stream of traffic made its halting way forward. There were people shouting, children crying and the sounds even of livestock and chickens filled the air. Late in the day as they came over the final hill Joseph looked down with dismay at the milling crowds. What could he do? He couldn’t leave Mary alone. They drove down the main street enquiring at various inns, but the owners turned up their noses at his run-down vehicle. No joy there. Funny, beyond the end of the main street, where the plots of land were the smallest they were even cluttered more with shacks leaning against some of the houses of the poor. Renting these out helped bring in a little money.
Recognising the name of a cousin he had once met, on a door of one such house Joseph knocked. The door opened, just a crack at first, but soon they w ere old friends and being led to the shack where they could at least have some privacy. Food and water were brought, but Mary couldn’t wait to get some rest.
It sure was a noisy neighbourhood with children playing in the street till late, dogs barking and even sheep and goats bleating. But eventually the children left and the street became quiet. Finally the world had gone to sleep.
Joseph was woken from a dream filled with heavenly music. Mary was shaking him. “The baby is coming.” He rushed out to wake their hosts and suddenly there was a hive of activity. Lamps were lit, the midwife called and Joseph, like a typical expectant father took himself off for a walk. He walked up the hill to the end of the road. He turned around and looked back at the little pool of light in the dark township just as someone across the town let off some fireworks. A rocket soared into the sky and burst into a thousand multi-coloured sparks. “Ooooh, Aaaaaah, Wow!” someone cried.
“Yes. How beautiful are your works, O Lord!!”
“Light shines forth for the just
And joy for the upright of heart.”
Rejoice, you just, in the Lord
Give glory to his holy name. “ Psalm 96.
Joseph walked on air, back to the humble dwelling where that night the Word had been made Flesh. He couldn’t wait to hold him, love him, care for him and his mother, the dearest creatures in all his world. TR FAMILY WEEKLY 24 DECEMBER 2020