John Heeds God’s Call

Joseph was buried according to Jewish customs.

Mary grieved for him, but found peace. She prayed for the repose of his soul along with the souls of others – family, friends, and those none prayed for – every night.

Time passed and the pain lessened.

For Mary had Jesus.

And though their number had dwindled from three to only two, Mary and Jesus found happiness in their home in Nazareth.

***

John looked up at the night sky.

Elizabeth, his mother, came out to him. “Why are you out so late, son?”

“I heard a voice call my name.”

She looked around and saw no one.

He turned to face her. “I must leave. There is somewhere I must go. And God’s work that I need to do.”

She smiled sadly. “When I carried you inside my womb, I knew God had plans for you. I knew that you were special as Samuel of old. If it is His time now…”

“It is. I must leave.”

“John.” She held out her arms.

He came to her and hugged her.

“I will pray for you that God may be your light and your guide everywhere you go.” Her voice was strong, but tears stung her eyes.

“May He always be with you.” He picked up his staff and walked into the night.

Joseph’s Death

Joseph lay dying in his own bed.

He looked at the two people he loved best: Mary and Jesus.

Mary knelt beside the bed, alternating tears with tearful prayers. Jesus knelt beside her, trying to comfort her with His nearness.

“Mary.” Joseph’s voice was only half a whisper.

She raised her head.

“Mary. Have I done well? Is there more I could have done to make life easier for you and Jesus?” Tears trailed down his face. “Have I honored God as I ought? Have I fought the good fight?”

“Joseph. It has been an honor and a blessing to have you as my husband. You have loved me and honored me. You have cared for our dear Son. You have done all that you could to protect us and provide for us. God will surely smile upon your soul when you enter the next life.”

“Will He?”

“Yes.” Jesus said gently.

“Jesus. My dear Jesus. I don’t know why I was chosen to be your foster father. I don’t question why. So, You need not answer. I am happy. I am so happy that You came to Earth, to me and to Mary. I am so happy to see the man You are becoming. I am blessed, so blessed to see the face of my son is the face of my Redeemer. Jesus. My dear Jesus. Take care of her.”

“I will. And when I open the gates to Heaven, I will come and find you. I will guide you safely, sweetly home.”

Joseph started to smile. “Jesus. Mary.”

The light faded from his eyes and he fell into silent, eternal sleep.

Three Days Lost

“Where is He?”

“I thought He was with you.”

“He was. I was holding His hand, but now.” Tears filled Mary’s eyes. “What if He’s been taken by bandits? What if He’s hurt?”

“Don’t worry. We’ll find Him.”

“Joseph.” She laid her hand on his arm. “What if we don’t? What if it’s His time?”

His heart ached at the thought. “We’ll find Him. I promise you.” He gently kissed her forehead. “Come. Let’s first search amongst our caravan. If He is not with them, we’ll return to the city. We’ll search all day and all night. And we will find Him.”

***

“I haven’t seen Him. I’m sure He’s with Ezechiel. You know how close those two are.”

***

“I saw Him stop over by Old Judith’s well to drink some water. It isn’t likely He’s still there, but she might know where He went.”

***

“I saw Him walk amongst the sheep, back there.”

***

“He found my lost sheep, but that was shortly after we left the city.”

***

And so the day went on. Joseph and Mary followed every lead, no matter how unlikely. The day came to an end as all days do – in darkness and cool night air. Yet, they kept searching.

All through the night.

***

Day came, but He was not found.

Joseph could see the weariness on his wife’s lovely face. “We should rest a while.”

She shook her head. “I will rest when I find Him.”

He gently squeezed her hand. “I will wait until then as well.”

***

They spent that whole day following more leads. Each one led them closer and closer to the city.

Night fell again.

Neither one gave up hope.

“We will see Him again.” she said and he knew that she believed it. “If God should so will.”

“Let us pray then that God will guide our steps.”

They prayed all night long.

***

Morning came with new leads.

Joseph and his wife followed the leads back into the city.

Joseph went up to a rug merchant. “Excuse me, but have you seen a young boy? He’s twelve years old and about so high?”

“Many, many people walk past me. Some boys. Some girls. Some from around here. Some from far out of town.” He smiled a seedy smile at them. “But if you are looking for one particular boy, well. You will have to pay. Buy a rug. You won’t regret it. My rugs are the best of the best.”

“I don’t have any money.”

“What? Why would you come to this city without any money? That’s bad planning.”

She stepped forward and knelt before him. “My son is lost. He is my only son. Please. If you know anything…If you’ve seen Him, please tell me.”

His expression softened. “Of course. Of course. As long as next time you come to this fair city, you bring extra money to buy a rug from me.”

Joseph rested his hands on her shoulders. “We will. Please. Where can we find Him?”

“Hmm, twelve year old boy about so high…Doesn’t give me much to go on.”

“He looks more like her than He does me.”

“Ah-ha! I think I know just the boy you’re seeking. Go to the temple. There’s a boy in there talking to the priests about—” He shrugged. “—I don’t know. Priest stuff. He’s creating quite the stir..”

Joseph and his wife forgot their weariness and hunger and ran to the temple.

***

He stood before the chief priests, speaking about the prophecies and the coming of the long awaited one.

They sat in solemn silence, listening and wondering at His words.

His mother ran to him and hugged him tight. “My son! Why did You not stay with us? Your father and I have searched for You for three days, sorrowing.”

He looked up at her with eyes so like her own, but filled with clarity unlike any other. “Why did you search for me, sorrowing? Did you not know I’d be here? Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?”

Joseph quietly marveled at this boy and his extraordinary words. He stepped forward and said, “Come, Jesus. Let’s go home.”

And the boy left the temple with his parents.

The Holy Family

Mary and Joseph returned to Nazareth.

Her parents rejoiced at their safe return. They fussed and loved over their grandchild.

Joseph told them of all that had come to pass before and after His birth. They listened in rapt wonder, whispering words of thanks to God.

Mary let him speak. She sat and smiled love at her Child.

***

Jesus grew as all children do. There were lessons to learn, wounds to bind, tears to wipe away.

There was laughter and there was sorrow.

There was health and there was sickness.

There were tax collectors to pay.

There was work to be done.

But through it all, there was love.

Joseph loved Mary as someone precious and holy.

Mary loved Jesus as her child and as her God. He was her light. He was her joy.

And Simeon’s warning lurked always in the back of her mind.

Joseph’s Third Dream

The journey from Bethlehem to Egypt was long and arduous and dangerous. Joseph stopped only as needed for only as long as needed.

And then they were on their way again.

Joseph wiped his forehead and thanked God for their donkey – a steadfast creature who went wherever Joseph led him.

“Are you sure?” asked Mary. “I don’t mind walking.”

Joseph shook his head. “I’ll rest in a little while.”

“Joseph, I don’t mind.”

He looked back at her.

There were no gold ornaments in her hair or her ears. No sheer veils of silk and shine. Her clothes were plain and unadorned. And her child slept in plain linen. Yet, to his eyes, she was a queen.

“I am fine.”

***

They reached Egypt without falling prey to sickness or robbers. And there they stayed.

Until,  at last, one particular night arrived.

The sky was filled with a million stars. “It’s as if God tossed all of the sand into the sky and set the grains aflame.” said Joseph in awe.

Mary smiled. “So, it does seem.”

Joseph looked down at the Child in his arms.

I wonder. Will I still be around when he becomes of age? Will I be there to protect Mary from the sorrow that is yet to come? Will I live to an old age?

He sang a song to Jesus. The words were nonsense meant only to soothe a sleepy child, but the melody had a gentle rise and fall.

“I don’t know that song.” said Mary.

Joseph smiled. “Because it is one from my own head.”

“I like it.” She smiled as Jesus yawned. “I believe He likes it too.”

“Then, I will continue.”

A shooting star arced the sky.

***

Mary took Jesus into her bedroom and Joseph retired to his own.

He closed his eyes and fell into a deep sleep.

***

He stood at the River Jordan. He had never seen it before. Yet, he knew beyond any doubts that it was the River Jordan.

A creature emerged from the sunlit water.

There was nothing in this world that he could compare it to. So great and terrible was its beauty.

He bowed before it and pressed his head against the sand.

“Joseph. Fear not. I have come with a message. Herod – he who sought the life of the child you have named Jesus – has passed into judgment. You may now return to Nazareth with the Child and His mother. And fear not the journey ahead. God will be with you.”

Joseph raised his head and considered asking the questions that hid inside his heart.

But the creature disappeared and the dream ended.

***

Joseph opened his eyes and it was still dark.

Yet, his soul shone bright with illumination.

“Yea. I will fear not the journey ahead. God, lead me as You will and I will follow.”

The Flight

Mary sat on the donkey with the baby Jesus snuggled tight in her arms. Joseph held the donkey’s lead line and a lantern to guide the creature’s way.

Her heart raced as ugly visions played before her eyes. Jesus, her child, her precious one, torn out of her arms by Herod’s guards. His tender heart pierced by a lance again and again. All while she stood aside unable to help Him, unable to save Him, unable to take His place.

She said a soft prayer and held Him closer. He stirred and fussed in His sleep. “Shh, my darling.” She sang a new mother’s lullaby. Her voice was innocent and pure like that of a child.

Joseph looked up at her. It was a song he did not know. So, he smiled and listened.

The baby Jesus settled down and fell asleep. And He slept gently, softly in His mother’s maiden arms.

Joseph led them through the long, dark night.

Joseph’s Second Dream

By the time the three kings left, day had fallen into evening.

Joseph sighed. “We’ll return to Nazareth tomorrow. It is too late to travel safely now.”

They said their night prayers and they fell asleep. Mary beside Jesus. And Joseph alone.

***

Joseph opened his eyes. He stood in a place where the sky met the sea and both were true blue.

A creature of pure light came before him.

“Joseph.” Its voice was like a wondrous new Psalm. “I have warned the Magi and sent them on a safe path to their homeland. I will now do the same for you. Herod is searching for the Child that you have named Jesus. He wishes to take His life. You must not let this happen. Take the Child and His mother to Egypt.”

“Egypt?”

“It is far out of Herod’s reach. The Child will be safe there.”

“When must I go?”

“Tonight. Now. Do not tarry. And fear not. God is with you.”

“Will we stay in Egypt always?”

“No. Herod’s days grow short. I will come again to you when it is time to return to your home. Go, Joseph, and go in peace.”

***

Joseph opened his eyes. He shook the hay out of his clothes and woke Mary.

She looked up at him.

“I’m sorry, Mary, but we are not safe. We must leave tonight.”

“Now?”

“Now.”