â€śMaryâ€¦â€ť Joseph called aloud. The tang of her name on his lips was sweet. But when he completely woke up, and he remembered what she had done, he pulled the covers back over his head.
Mary had made a fool of him.
After years as a bachelor, he had decided to marry a chaste young girl from a good family - only to find out she was expecting a child!
It was too outrageous to be true. How in the world could a virgin get pregnant? Prophecies around the Messiah were real of course, but had nothing to do with him.
He was just a man â€“ no one special. Feeling dejected, Joseph fell back into a troubled sleep.
This time in his dream, a man appeared, a tall strapping fellow at least two heads taller than he. Dressed in white, his forehead was completely smooth, his face devoid of wrinkles or any signs of age.
â€śJoseph, donâ€™t be afraid to claim Mary as your wife. Godâ€™s Holy Spirit has conceived the baby sheâ€™s expecting. Itâ€™s going to be a boy. His name will be Jesus because Heâ€™s going to save His people from their sin.â€ť
â€śMary!â€ť Joseph shouted in his sleep, waking himself up with the sound of his own voice. He felt for his robe and pulled it on.
Determined to see Mary, he rushed out.
The sun was just rising as Joseph hurried toward Maryâ€™s house. Once there, he banged so loudly that the rough wood grazed his knuckles.
Joseph didnâ€™t care what Maryâ€™s mother thought as she cracked open the door to see him. With his hair sticking up, no proper head covering, and his face unshaven, he knew he was quite a sight.
â€śPlease, I have to speak to Mary,â€ť he pleaded. â€śIâ€™ve mistreated her. Iâ€™ve done her a grave injustice.â€ť
â€śMaryâ€™s still asleep. Please come back later when she wakes upâ€¦â€ť She shook her head and started to turn away, but Joseph wedged his foot in the door to keep it from closing.
â€śI have to speak with her. Itâ€™s urgent,â€ť he insisted, and pushed open the door.
By this time, Maryâ€™s father had appeared. Both parents stared at him in the open doorway, their eyebrows knit together with disapproval. â€śSir,â€ť Joseph explained, â€śIâ€™m sorry to disturb you so early, but it is important or I wouldnâ€™t be here like this!â€ť
Maryâ€™s mother, a petite woman with delicate features, stared back at him for a few moments, and then sighed. She nodded at her husband, whose shoulders visibly slumped. He shrugged and consented, â€śAll right then â€“ sheâ€™s your problem now anyway. Youâ€™ll have to wait here in the courtyard until Maryâ€™s dressed. Iâ€™ll get her.â€ť
He shut the door.
Joseph lingered impatiently after Maryâ€™s parents had disappeared into the house and the door had snapped shut with a loud click. The minutes felt like hours as he passed time staring down the familyâ€™s goat.
â€śJoseph?â€ť Mary slipped through quietly with sleep still in her eyes. Wisps of hair framed her face with a soft halo in the early morning light. She looked innocent and untouched.
â€śWhat do you want?â€ť she asked.
His stomach dropped. For the first time since he had known Mary, her eyes were wary, narrowed with suspicion. Joseph had seen a similar expression before in the eyes of a small gray kitten that liked to sneak into his house when he opened the door. That same look had been in her tiny eyes when he cornered her to put her outside.
He couldnâ€™t fault Mary. It was sensible to hold back from him after how he and everyone had treated her.
â€śMary, I was so wrongâ€¦â€ť he blurted out. â€śI was going to send you awayâ€¦ to save you from stoningâ€¦ from disgrace. I had no ideaâ€¦ how could this be happening to us?â€ť
Her face brightened and Joseph reproached himself even more. He couldnâ€™t even begin to fathom how much of a burden it had been for her to carry alone.
â€śWhat happened, Joseph? How did you find out?â€ť Her voice was barely above a whisper.
â€śWell, just as you had a visitation from the angel, I also have.â€ť He couldnâ€™t believe this â€“ it was almost too much to believe â€“ him â€“ visited by an angel. â€śHe said we are to name the baby Jesus.â€ť
â€śNo one will believe us.â€ť Mary stated eyes huge with wonder in her small face. â€śWhat should we do now?â€ť
â€śWeâ€™re to carry out the instructions given by the angel.â€ť Joseph knew what he had to do. â€śWill you forgive me for not believing you?â€ť he asked Mary. As the sunâ€™s first light crept across the small courtyard, a rooster crowed somewhere in the distance.
â€śI want to,â€ť she said honestly, looking him straight in the eye. â€śYou only did what anybody else would have done. You could have had me stoned, but you didnâ€™t.â€ť
Joseph didnâ€™t deserve her and he knew it.
He had been about to send her away. She had tried to explain, but he had treated her with contempt. He opened his mouth but the words never made it past his lips.
â€śMary!â€ť her father called from the doorway.
Mary flinched, startled by the sharp tone he used.
â€śYouâ€™ve had enough time out here in the courtyard for the public to view your shame,â€ť he called callously. â€śCome in here now â€“ there are tasks to tend to.â€ť The tall thin man stood in the doorway, an ugly expression on his angular face. He looked at Mary as if he was dealing with a smelly piece of trash he had held for too long before disposing of it. He stood holding the door open and with a quick look at Joseph, she lifted her head and walked slowly and deliberately into the house.