Let It Be
Written by Tonye Adenusi.
This story was featured in the last edition of the Circles of Love Magazine. Beautiful written and captivating. I hope you will be blessed and inspired as I was by this beautiful writer. Please leave your comments below. Enjoy!
Joseph whistled as he went entered the workshop he shared with his father, thinking to himself what a fine day it was. The temperature was unseasonably mild and there was an unmistakable scent of spices and the bustle of preparations for Sabbath. Today would be a good day – he could just feel it!
Sitting down at his Carpenter’s bench, he carefully examined the selection of tools that were neatly laid out in front of him, deciding on what he needed to bring the piece of wood he now held in his hands to life. He didn’t hear his father, Jacob, enter the small room until he cleared his throat for the third time.
“Someone is happy about something”, Jacob smiled indulgently at his son as he teased gently. Joseph tried to hide a grin as he said “I don’t know what you mean, Abba. Can’t a man just whistle for the sake of it?” “Whistling while you work is supposed to make your work go faster”.
Jacob laughed, his white curly hair gently bouncing. “Sure it does… I don’t suppose this sudden burst of good humour has anything to do with a certain young damsel returning to Nazareth today? Hmm?”
This time Joseph couldn’t hide his grin. Putting down the chisel in his hand, he said “Really Abba, I’m so excited I can hardly stand it! I had only just begun to discover her, and then all of a sudden, she was going away to visit her cousin. I didn’t think I would miss her so much, but she’s all I can think of each day. Her smile, her gentle ways, her teasing, her quick wit…” his voice trailed off as Joseph realised how much he had said to his father and flushed with embarrassment.
Jacob’s eyes twinkled, “Well, maybe you should put down those tools before you hurt yourself, son. A carpenter needs his wits about him when he’s working, and your wits have clearly deserted you today”, he said, nodding at the lump of wood in Joseph’s hands, which was looking rather like a heart. “I’m pretty sure Adir had a sturdier piece of furniture when he ordered his stool.”
Joseph looked down at the piece of wood in his hands “You’re right”, he said, abandoning all pretence of work, “I think I’ll take a walk to the market place”.
Grabbing a handful of grapes from a wooden bowl on the table by the door as he left, he made his way towards the centre of the town. His mother always left some grapes or dates in the bowl by the door. That was her favourite bowl, she always said, because it was made by her only son. Joseph used to tease her by saying “but you only have one son”, but it was a bit of a sore point for Rebekah that Adonai had not seen it fit to bless her with another male child. Rebekah said she could never question the Most High, but Joseph knew that it sometimes made her sad.
As he walked through the busy streets, Joseph realised he was doing a bit more than looking forward to seeing his betrothed. He found himself day-dreaming about their future together. Even though they had been betrothed for nearly ten months now, he had never really thought about the day they would start to live together as man and wife. He hoped that Adonai would bless them with many strong sons to fill his house and make Rebekah happy in her old age. He was a devout Jew, and he had followed the teachings of the Torah all his life. His father was a well-respected member of the community – a righteous man, and he had taught Joseph the ways of Ha’Shem from his childhood. Joseph believed that if he worshipped Ha’Shem faithfully, and went to temple sacrifice daily, Adonai would bless him and his family.
“Shalom, Joseph!” Ari, his best friend from boyhood gave his back a friendly, if boisterous slap, breaking his reprieve. “Today is the day, my friend. Your betrothed is coming home, and before you know it, the period of ‘Kiddushin’ will be over and you can get fat on Mary’s cooking”, he joked. Whispering conspiratorially, he continued, “You know, my sister Rachel says that Mary is a fantastic cook and she has been working hard to prepare for life as your wife”. Joseph smiled, but Ariel could see he was lost in thought. The men walked through the town and sat together in companionable silence at Ari’s market stall. Ari was a fabric trader, and from his stall, they could see all the comings and goings in Nazareth.
The sound of every arriving caravan or cart caused Joseph’s heart to race, until at last there was the face that he had been waiting for all these months. His throat was dry, and he swallowed several times while trying to dry his now damp hands on his cloak. “She’s here”, he whispered. He did not smile as his feet carried him towards Mary; before he knew it, he had broken into a jog. Not caring who was watching, he ran to the cart that was offloading its passengers and goods, his face now split in a smile that seemed to light him up from the inside.
Mary saw her betrothed running to her, and listened to the tutt-tutting of the elders who travelled with her. “He really should try to control himself”, said the old mother beside her, without any malice. But Mary just laughed. She was so excited to see him, she didn’t care much about traditions today, although she did take a minute to make sure her veil was secure and her clothes were reasonably decent, in spite of all that travel dust. She put her hand over her stomach protectively, knowing that as soon as she told him of the child she carried, Joseph would put her away. He was a principled man. How would he believe her when she told him that this Gift was from Adonai – (His name be praised)? How would he believe that she had not been defiled and she was still his woman?
Joseph reached up to help Mary off the cart, impatient to have her by his side and hear her voice, see her smile. He thought she looked a little different, but then thought it was perhaps his eyes playing tricks on him. Much to the amusement of all who looked upon them, he took her in his arms in a gentle embrace as Mary got off the cart. It was usually frowned upon for them to have such contact in public, but he was done waiting and some of the onlookers hid a smile.
Mary closed her eyes as she leaned into their Joseph as she savoured the moment. She knew there would be no more moments of tenderness between them.
Joseph could not believe what his senses were telling him. Having waited almost five months for her to return, he couldn’t understand why there was a lump between him and his beloved. Startled, he jerked away from Mary and looked into her eyes, searching for an answer, a different and more plausible reason for her body to be so different. The tears and pleading look in her eyes chilled him to the bone. Everything stopped. Everything changed in those few seconds. As he looked at her, a thousand questions filled his mind… each one vying for position, clamouring to be answered. His chest grew tight as if a vice had taken hold and was squeezing the very life from him. He could not be sure it was a child, but he remembered the last (and first) time he had held her, had dreamt about it all these months, and he knew for certain.
In that moment Mary looked up at Joseph and knew that her betrothed was lost to her, no matter what her cousin Elizabeth said. Elizabeth had told her “As Adonai – blessed be His name forever – has seen it fit to bless you Mary, then He will protect you.”
Conscious of the onlookers, Joseph picked up Mary’s bundle, turned and slowly walked out of the market square.
Mary followed Joseph silently as he led the way to her father’s house. She wished he would say something – anything but the silence between them would be preferable. As she walked, she drank in the sight of Joseph’s brown, unruly curls and his muscular back, made strong by hours of building houses or crafting some beautiful piece of furniture. As she tried to imagine what he could be thinking, her mind travelled back to when it all began.
She had been in the upper court, trying to get cool. The weather was so hot! Having completed all her chores, mama had said she could rest awhile before starting the preparations for dinner. She was learning how to be a good wife to Joseph and she really wanted to get it right. In the months since their “eyrusin” – their betrothal – she looked forward to being Joseph’s wife in more than name. She spent most of her spare time either learning to prepare tempting new dishes or sewing her wedding garments and other things she would take into her new home.
Sometimes though, she just spent her time daydreaming, which was what she was doing that day. Lying on her pallet, reminiscing about day Abba had told her that Jacob had asked for her hand in marriage. She could hardly breathe as she heard that the two men had discussed her possible marriage to Joseph. Her?! Marry Joseph?! He was very eligible, and handsome. Their fathers were good friends, as were Joseph and Isaac, Mary’s brother. As a little girl, she had worshipped them and often got into trouble with her mother for running off to play with the boys when she should have been doing her chores. “Leave her alone, Miriam”, Abba would say when mama scolded her “she is just a child”. “You spoil this child Eli”, mama would grumble, “You must let her be a girl”. “Yes, but there is so much time for her to do that Miriam”, Eli would retort, winking at his only daughter. He loved his daughter very much and was not ashamed to spoil her. “I hope she will have a husband who can deal with the madam you are creating, Eli”, Miriam would respond, good naturedly. Mary loved to hear her parents fight over her like this; she knew Abba would always take her side.
So when that evening Eli said Jacob wanted to unite their families in marriage, Mary was ecstatic. “What do you think biti?” Eli asked, watching his daughter closely, “Shall I say yes to Jacob when he returns for his answer?” He knew Joseph was a good man who would take good care of his precious daughter; he just hoped she would say yes. Mary crossed the room and sat in her Abba’s lap, the way she did when she was a little girl, she put her arms around his neck and said “Yes Abba. If this is the will of Ha’Shem, it will be my pleasure”. Eli’s arms tightened around his only daughter for a second. His baby girl was growing up, but he knew she couldn’t stay a baby forever.
The preparations for the “eyrusin” or betrothal were a blur. Her mother and female relatives seemed to be constantly bustling about the place and her cousins teased her about the handsome groom with twinkling brown eyes.
One evening when Miriam escaped into the compound for some fresh air and some peace and quiet, she was surprised to see Mary already there, sitting quietly and looking pensive. Crossing the small space, Miriam sat with her only daughter, asking after a few minutes of silence, “What is the matter, bubbaleh?”, she had not used that term of endearment in a long while. Mary sighed, recognising its significance, “I don’t know if I am prepared for this Mama. What if I can never be as good a wife or mother as you have been to Abba and to Isaac and I?”. Miriam, always a woman of few words, took her daughter’s hand in hers, patting it. “Look at the stars, Mary. It is Adonai – praise His holy name – who keeps them suspended in the sky. It is He who gives us the power to be good wives and mothers. He will help you. Never forget that.” Then Miriam went on to explain that the months between the “eyrusin” and the actual wedding ceremony was a time of sanctification for both the bride and his groom. “The kiddushim means to be set apart, Mary. While Joseph uses the time to prepare a place fit for you to live in, I will teach you all that I can to prepare you for life as a godly wife and a member of Jacob’s household… Remember Mary, the One who watches Israel also watches over us. You will be fine.”
When the day finally arrived, Mary thought of all that Miriam had told her, and as the stood under the canopy where they expressed their intention of becoming betrothed before their friends and family, she whispered a prayer to Adonai “Please help me to do this right”.
Lost as she was in her reminiscing, Mary jumped when she heard a man’s voice call to her “Greetings, Mary”. Startled, Mary looked up at the strange man before her. He was not a relative, and should not have been there, but somehow she sensed he meant her no harm.
Mary hurried to her feet as he spoke again. “You are favoured by the Lord! Yaweh is with you.” Introducing himself as Gabriel, the angel who stood before Yaweh, he said, “You have found favour with God. You will give birth to a son, and name him Jesus. He will be a great man and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David and his kingdom will never end.” Mary was stunned. When she could finally speak, her voice only came out in a squeak, “But how can this be? I’m a virgin.” The angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come to you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the holy child inside you will be called the Son of God.” He carried on, “Elizabeth, your cousin, is six months pregnant with a son in her old age. People said she couldn’t have a child. But nothing is impossible for God.”
Mary sighed heavily. She had told no one about the visitation. Not even when she began to notice the changes in her body, and now she wished she had. The question that had plagued her throughout her time visiting her cousin Elizabeth was who would believe her story? Joseph had her life in his hands right now. If he reported her to the elders, she could be stoned to death for committing adultery, or at the very least, disgraced. It was only a matter of time before everyone started to notice. “Oh Adonai, what am I to do?” She sighed again. “Even if Joseph accepts me as I am, he will most certainly be disgraced with me. People will think he dishonoured me during our kiddushim“. Her heart was breaking, but she was strangely at peace.
Joseph left Mary at the gate of her father’s compound, where her family was excited to see her. Mary took a deep breath, and walked in to her childhood home as Joseph slowly walked to the city gate. He needed to think about what this meant. He had not said one word to Mary. He simply couldn’t speak. He thought about what it all meant, but try as he might he couldn’t see his innocent, virtuous Mary having carnal knowledge of another. There had to be another explanation! He knew if he reported her to the elders, she would be disgraced and maybe stoned to death. He could not bear the thought! “Oh Adonai, what is to be done?” he asked as the sun went down.
Joseph walked slowly home. He knew his Abba would be waiting up for him, so he snuck in the back way, not wanting to answer any questions. As he drifted off to sleep, Joseph made up his mind. He would speak to the family in a few days and tell them that he had changed his mind. They would have to bear the consequences of whatever Mary had done. Finally exhausted from his weeping and walking and thinking, Joseph finally fell into a deep sleep.
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Written by Tonye Adenusi
We all know the story of the birth of Jesus, but I really just wanted to explore it from the human perspective. Mary and Joseph had to trust God to see them through a very difficult time, in the face of their traditions and beliefs, and at great personal cost. Because they were obedient, we have Jesus today.
Matthew 1:19-25 (The rest of the story)
20 But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.
21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins.
22 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying,
23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.
24 Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife:
25 And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name Jesus.
Photo credit: kingdomofdaughter