'Tales of the Unexpected'
'Tales of the Unexpected'
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your
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
|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
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. . .
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
| 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 . . .
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
| 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
| 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
| 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
|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 . . .
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.
Bible references to Joseph
Matthew 1: 1825; Luke 2:
17; Luke 2: 1516; Luke 2: 2133, 3940;
Matthew 2: 1315; Matthew 2: 1923; Luke 2: 4148
Note - The video based on this soul space, can be found here :
|Rev David Denniston/Ruth
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