by Jerry B. Jenkins
Call me Joseph bar Jacob. I was a simple man, a carpenter in a small village.
You know my story. I was in love with a girl as beautiful inside as out, and trust me, her beauty was obvious.
She would come by at the end of my day with a fresh pot of drinking water. That was my signal that it was time to brush from my hair and beard the wood chips of a long day of planing and sawing. My hands were rough and callused, my wrists sore from swinging the mallets.
Mary demurely turned away when I loosened the top of my apron and stood bare-chested at the water trough to wash. When I was again covered, I would smile and say, "Now my sweet girl, something to drink."
There could not have been a happier man in all of Judah. That fresh, pure water Mary drew from a spring near her home cooled my throat and revived me. I would gather her tiny frame and hold her close, wondering at how a man of such humble station could be blessed with such a treasure. She was my intended, my wife-to-be.
But then came the day of my tantrum. How would you have reacted? My first clue was that she had forgotten the water. I couldn't be angry about that. Though she had been faithful with that gift every day since our betrothal, I could just as easily have drawn my own water.
But also this day she did not turn her back to me when I washed. She merely sat with her eyes cast down. In a strange way she shone, despite her secret.
"What is it?" I asked her, cupping her face in my hands.
"You will not believe me," she said. "You will not understand."
Her words cut deep. How could she question the faith and sympathy of a man who loved her more than life itself? But she was right.
"I am with child," she whispered, and my blood ran cold. "An angel appeared to me," she said, but before she could continue I rose and threw a plank against the wall.
We had remained pure. I had loved her too much to defile or defraud her. Who had come between us? What evil one had ruined our lives, our love? I fought hatred, revulsion. I could not picture it. There was no imagining that could include my beloved in sinful embrace.
My lips trembled and I shuddered. I turned my back to her, wondering how I could break our engagement without further humiliating her. Despite my anger and grief, I wanted to do what was best for her.
She pleaded with me to understand, but I could not look at her.
"I have not sinned," she told me. "What is within me is of the Holy Spirit."
I was not moved. An angel had appeared to her, she said. The Scriptures told of such visits hundreds of years before. That didn't happen anymore. When she hurried away in tears, my heart was broken. I could not fathom a lie from her lips, but who could believe this?
I thought of the men in the village I must see about an official putting-away of my espoused one, and I fought for self-control as I reminded myself that God no longer visited mankind through angels.
That night the angel of the lord appeared to me. "Fear not" he said.
I confess I disobeyed. He told me to take Mary as my wife because the child that was conceived in her was of the Holy Spirit. He told me of the impending birth of Jesus the Christ.
I stole away in the night and approached Mary's home. A candle burned near where she sat, as if she awaited me.
"Mary," I whispered, "forgive me. The angel appeared to me, too."
She embraced me and forgave me, and thus began a journey that would forever change our lives and the lives of millions through the ages.
The rest is His story.
Reprinted by permission from Moody magazine, December, 1991