There was a rap at the door, breaking the silence, and Joseph began to move from the place he had settled to greet the newcomer. Sara waved him off since she was much closer to the door, but that did no good. Joseph knew it would be completely inappropriate for his mistress to wash the feet of a guest to her home, especially if it were a man. His persistence was of value because Jesus’ brother, James, was at the door. James came in, shed his outer robe, handed it to Sara, and unlaced his sandals so Joseph could accomplish his foot washing task.
Sara marveled at how different James was than Jesus. “I guess that makes sense,” she thought, in light of what Mary had just shared about Jesus’ actual “father.” James was a rugged man, having followed after his father, Joseph, in the craftsman trade. He had given that up in this last year to become more involved with the large group of Jesus’ followers who regularly met in Jerusalem and seemed to have fallen into leadership among them. Jesus had been slighter in build and, since he had gone into rabbinic school at the age of 12 (after that impressive showing at the temple), didn’t have the same physically demanding life of his younger brothers.
Jesus had not been weak, though, by any estimation. The suffering he endured would have ended a weaker man’s life long before the cross. Sara had to turn toward an empty corner of the kitchen as tears once again escaped her eyes. Those images were still too vivid, even a year later. James, a common visitor to the house to check on his mother, was tossing Izzy into the air, and her laughter was infectious. Sara smiled at her youngest blessing and wiped her eyes.
James was quickly caught up to the stopping place in his mother’s story. Mary nodded to him, wanting him to carry on with it, as now her oldest son. “Dad took little time for story-telling” he began. “For those of you who never had the chance to know him, he was a quiet, strong and honest man who was quite calculated in all he did, as you might expect of a life-long craftsman. There was one time, though, when he related his part of this story to me as we worked together in the shop. I should say he was working, while I was sweeping and listening. It was Jesus’ thirteenth birthday, and it was the first birthday he missed being away at school. Dad was sad and allowed himself to reminisce.
“‘You can’t blame me for struggling to believe her, can you?’ dad asked me not really expecting an answer. ‘She was promised to me when she discovered she was pregnant. Her excuse was that just two weeks before an angel had visited her with a message from Jehovah. Your mom was young, but I had always known her to be honest. It was one of the things that attracted me to the idea of a life together. But there is only one way to be pregnant’ he said looking directly at me, ‘and that is to have been with a man… and that man wasn’t me!’
“‘I reacted poorly… humanly,’ he confessed to me. ‘Disgrace was a certainty for both of us… maybe worse for mom. She had gone through the normal routine for women during their “unclean” time, though she was not bleeding, and was planning a trip to visit her cousin, Elizabeth, who she claimed was six months pregnant. I felt this was possibly the way out. Mary could leave before anyone was aware of her condition and never return. There would be questions, initially, but she would be safe and I would not be implicated.'” James paused to take hold of Mary’s hand as she had begun to weep quietly.
Sara could not, for the life of her, grasp what that must have been like. An angel visits and you get pregnant without being with a man and then your future husband doesn’t believe you and wants to break off the engagement. That had to be a new definition for “alone.” James began again and Sara forced her mind back to the story.
“Dad couldn’t get to sleep that night, though he had worked especially hard during the day to try to erase the situation from his mind. Sometime in the last watch he must have dozed off, he said, because he began dreaming… mostly wild, nonsensical dreams. But suddenly, all the images were washed out in white, and when his mind seemed to adjust, a young man was standing before him. Mom’s description came to his mind instantly. This was the same being.
“At that point dad had stopped everything he had been doing and was clearly reliving that moment in time. I’m not sure he even remembered I was there. ‘I was afraid, and added to that, embarrassed that I had not believed Mary, but the angel smiled at me and said, ‘Don’t be afraid, Joseph. Mary has told you the truth. Jehovah is the one who caused her to be pregnant and she will have a son. Take her as your wife and when the son is born name him Yeshua, because he will save his people from the penalty of their sin.”
“Dad stopped talking at that point and just sat for a moment, still lost in thought. Then, as if he was waking up from that same dream, he said, ‘I awoke refreshed and at peace. I left my workshop just as it was and went to find Mary. We were married within the week and immediately after the days of celebration, she left to visit Elizabeth. I wondered if people would do the math and start rumors about Mary being pregnant before our marriage, but the angel had said not to be afraid. That was the plan.'”
Mary was smiling again as James came to the end of his account. It was time to eat and Sara was ready. Her servants made quick work of assuring that all had enough to eat and drink. It was a night of celebration, after all. It was Jesus’ birthday. Sara couldn’t help wondering, though, what was keeping John. He had said he had an errand to run, but she was sure he wouldn’t want to miss this night. It was his idea!