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Bible Stories
'Tales of the Unexpected'
~
Joseph's Memories




'Tales of the Unexpected'



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Joseph's Memories


Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3: 5-6 )

Joseph - husband of Mary, and step-father of Jesus - such an important person in God's salvation plan for the world - and yet he is largely overlooked ! Joseph is only mentioned a few times in the Bible, and we have no record of anything he ever said. Trying to redress the balance, let's listen as Joseph tells his own story . . . 

Joseph's memory box
Joseph's memory box
We had some strange and exotic visitors after our baby Jesus was born. The most exotic of them, brought their gifts in this. We didn't ever really discover who they were or where they were from, but judging by the gifts they brought, they must have been as rich as kings . . .

All the village children would play together when we were little. Mary was a couple of years younger than me, but she was a fierce and wild and knew her own mind even then. Somehow she always seemed to be in charge in our games, and was forever getting us all into trouble with our parents and neighbours. She was forever losing her hair ribbons - I found this one day after we'd been playing. I think maybe I loved her even then . . . Mary's hair ribbon
Mary's hair ribbon

Broken bethrothal ring
Broken bethrothal ring
One day my father called me to him, told me they had arranged a good marriage for me. My heart sank - who would it be? Then he told me it was Mary ! I don't know how he ever got her parents to agree to that, but I couldn't believe my ears. I just hoped I could make her happy, hoped she wouldn't hate the idea of marrying me. This was my engagement gift to Mary, but then there was all the trouble and it got broken in one of the many fights with her parents. I never got it mended because I didn't want to remind Mary of such a terrible time, but it seemed a shame to throw it away, because I was so happy when I gave it to her . . .

I found this on a very bad day . . .
I couldn't believe it when they told me Mary was pregnant. I knew I wasn't the father. Couldn't believe she was pregnant - who was the father ? Why would she shame herself, her family, me - like that ? After they told me, I just had to get out of the village, away from everyone. I walked for miles, for hours, trying to understand. I ended up in the hills that's when I saw this. Such a tiny creature, turned to stone somehow. That's how my heart felt - like a stone in my chest, I felt numb, unable to feel anything, but at the same time in such pain, my heart was breaking. I had loved her so much, trusted her, hoped she at least liked me. . . . and then the dream, I was to marry Mary anyway, even though the child wasn't mine - was God's, of course everyone just believed that it was because I was the father, we gave up trying to persuade them otherwise. It was a relief to get away, go to Bethlehem. . .
Fossil
Fossil

Carved wooden Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus figures
Carved wooden Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus figures
A shepherd carved this for us . . .
We all had to travel to Bethlehem for the census, Mary heavily pregnant - I think it was the journey that sent her into labour - certainly we didn't expect the baby so soon. All my family had filled the inn, so the only private space we could find for her to give birth, was the barn. Although it was quiet, and warm and dry there, it really wasn't what I wanted for Mary, wasn't how or where we expected God's Son would be born. And then some noisy, dirty, smelly shepherds arrived - it felt like the last straw - but in fact, they were really nice ! We thought they were drunk at first, but they were just excited to see the baby. Cooked supper for us, one of them carved this for us while he was there, a quiet, shy man called James, with such a delicate touch for the wood, I would loved to have been able to work wood with him.

Mary made for her baby, but it was too small for him even when he was born. She was so upset about that, but she'd put such care and love into making it, that I couldn't bear to throw it away small baby's top
Small baby's top

Feather
Feather
Such odd things happened that day in the temple . . .
I picked this up the day we took our baby Jesus to the temple, to offer the traditional sacrifice of two doves, because he was Mary's first baby. We were just another young couple with a small baby - there were plenty of others there like us in the thronging crowds, nothing to make us stand out. And yet, two separate people - an old man and an old woman, both recognised our baby as Israel's long awaited Messiah, and spoke to us. That was strange but very somehow also reassuring, because it meant that despite all the trouble and the stable, we hadn't got it wrong, hadn't misunderstood God !

Maybe I'm imagining it but I think the exotic perfume still lingers. . . .
Such exotic visitors ! They arrived out of the blue one day. There were camels everywhere, caused total chaos, completely blocked the street - we won no friends among our neighbours that day ! We never quite worked out where they'd come from, but they'd travelled a long time, so they must have come a long way - far beyond anywhere we'd ever heard of. They bought amazing gifts - gifts for a king they said. Bags of gold, myrrh and frankincense used for wrapping dead bodies. But myrrh is also used by healers, and frankincense is used in the temple services. Odd gifts for a baby, but they were foreigners ! They gave us food, and drink, and beautiful fabrics - Mary was so excited about making clothes from those. They stayed quite a while, found somewhere else to leave their camels, and invited everyone in the street to the wonderful parties they held - that went a long way towards making the neighbours like us again ! For a few days after they left, life seemed very dull without them . . .
Incense jar
Incense jar

Olive wood earring
Olive wood earring
I made these for Mary, as a gift to celebrate the birth of her baby, but there's only one now, we lost one somewhere - I think it was probably left behind when we left Bethlehem in such a hurry to go to Egypt. We were lucky, another one of my dreams warned me to get Mary and the baby away as fast as possible. We only heard years later what happened after we left. How Herod sent his soldiers to Bethlehem with instructions to kill all the baby boys, not that they seemed to be able to tell the difference - they just killed all the babies, boys and girls, and some parents who tried to protect their children. We got away and were safe, but I wish we had know what was going to happen, wish we could have helped our neighbours and friends be safe too.

We were so overwhelmed by all the gifts from our exotic visitors . . .
But especially the gold and money - there were several of these bags, all full. Without their gifts we wouldn't have been able to escape to Egypt, no way we could have set up home there and lived there - we spent most of it supporting us in Egypt. There's not much work for a poor carpenter in treeless Egypt, only a rich man could afford imported wood, and rich men get noticed . . .
Empty money bag
Empty money bag

Egyptian scarab
Egyptian scarab
This old thing, now, what was his name ? No, I can't remember - but Jesus loved playing with this in Egypt, for years it was his favourite thing, went everywhere with him - that's why it looks a bit battered . . .

Jesus made this for me . . .
He was a good boy really - we never appreciated just how good and well behaved he was until we had the other children !
Anyway, eventually it was safe to leave Egypt and we came home again, but we were always on the lookout in case someone recognised us, in case someone was still looking for Jesus. So can you imagine our horror, our terror when we discovered he was missing. We'd been in Jerusalem for the Passover, and were travelling home in the usual crowd of friends and family before we realised that Jesus was nowhere to be found, no-one had seen him since we left Jerusalem.
Wooden bowl
Wooden bowl
Well Mary and I went back just as fast as we could, she was thinking the worst, well, we both were really. After searching for him everywhere, we eventually found him in the temple - sitting debating with the teachers. Jesus was only 12 - not had his Bar Mitzvah, still a child under Jewish law, not old enough to be responsible for his own actions, not old enough to participate in Jewish community life. And yet there he was sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. It seemed that everyone who heard him was amazed.

That was a wake up call, I can tell you - suddenly we were face to face with who he really was. Reminded that he wasn't my son, but God's. No ordinary child, but destined to be Israel's Messiah. Of course we clipped his ear and grounded him for weeks, but nothing was ever quite the same again. When we got back from Jerusalem, he was so apologetic, knew he'd upset us, even though I don't think he really understand why we'd been so worried.

He made this for me, out of a old lump of useless wood. Turned it into something beautiful. He has a real feel for the wood. He could be a wonderful carpenter, someone I'd be honoured to work with. It makes me sad sometimes knowing that can't ever happen, that his path leads him somewhere else . . .

Few remaining coins
Few remaining coins
Only a few coins left now - that's all that's left now from the riches we had. We're keeping this safe in case we ever need to leave in a hurry again, or in case Jesus upsets the authorities and needs to get away in a hurry to escape trouble . . .

Joseph's memory box {short description of image}

Prayer

May your eyes be opened to the wonder of the daily miracles around you, and your sense of mystery be deepened.
May you be aware of the light that shines in the darkness, which the darkness can never put out.
May love flow in you and through you, to those who need your care.
May you continue to dream dreams, and to reach out into the future with a deeper understanding of God's way for you.
Amen 


Bible references to Joseph


Matthew 1: 18–25; Luke 2: 1–7; Luke 2: 15–16; Luke 2: 21–33, 39–40;
Matthew 2: 13–15; Matthew 2: 19–23; Luke 2: 41–48
 


Video

Note - The video based on this soul space, can be found here : http://youtu.be/OKElEUfXZ1o


Rev David Denniston/Ruth Gillett, 2015

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