Christmas–11. The Return

Posted: 2013 年 12 月 12 日 in Christmas
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The Return

  1. The holy family had been in Egypt a short while when Joseph had another visitation. The young man had found work as an assistant carpenter and, even though he felt unclean in this alien land, his son wsa growing and beginning to recognize him. His wife was content to be with her baby. The angel said: “Rise! Take with you the child and his morther, and set out for the land of Israel. Those who were plotting against the life of the child are dead.” Joseph told Mary, and she prepared their little sack of belongings. Her spouse fetched the food and the water, and they started back across the great desert to Israel. The youthful carpenter would have blushed if anyone had called him noble, but he was noble beyond the calling of any man. No love of a man for a woman had been put to such spirit-breaking tests as this one, and survived in unquestioning meekness. He sustained all of the trials, and it dizzied his mind to think that, for all his remaining days, he would be on special trial before the eyes of God. Then too, although he had committed no crime, he was forced to flee hundreds of miles to Egypt; and now, in some trepidation, he was going back to his homeland, perhaps to face arrest and sudden death.

  1. Joseph had lots of time to think because walking in the heavy, cloying sand was slow, hot work. There was another side to his life. A side which repaid him, and more, for all the sacrifices. He, of all the men in the world, had been chosen to be the paternal guardian of the Christ. He could not think of a reason why he had been selected for this enormous honor, but he would discharge it within the framework of the laws of God. He had already made up his mind about the future. The family would return home to Nazareth. He would take up his work as carpenter as though nothing had happened except that, in the census at Bethlehem, his wife ahd given birth to a baby. Joseph would say nothing about the divinity of the child unless he was so ordered by another visitation. The best thing for the baby, he figured, was a normal upbringing. He hoped that Mary would not oppose him in this. And he hoped too that their knowledge of the child’s sacredness would not influence them in his daily care. He would not want Jesus to get special treatment. The best way would be to raise the boy as Joseph had been raised. When he had asked permission to do something, his parents often said no. It would have to be that way with this one. The law of the land said that, between the ages of one and five, the male child should be taught the fundamental truths about God and the law. This work was imposed on the mother.

  1. So Mary would have to teach. She would impart the ancient truths orally, as all mothers did in Judea. The boy would have to pay attention and, in time, be able to recite the ancient wisdom in Hebrew. At the age of five, he would be ready to attend daily classes at the synagogue. It would be awkward, teaching God about God, but Joseph’s simple, direct mind calculated that, if the messiah had chosen to be born of humble people in a stable, then he would not, at the age of one or two, begin to speak in mystical enigmas. He would probably choose to live as Joseph had ordained. If that was so, Joseph was pleased. He would, in time, teach Jesus how to square a piece of lumber and cut it; how to cut a dowel and insert it in cypress; how to make use of small scraps of wood in a land almost denuded of lumber; how to care for a little donkey and to load it with a day’s work; how to be respectful to a mother even when he disagreed with her wishes. He would enjoy teaching the boy to be a man. The more he thought about it, the happier Joseph became. Joseph couldn’t average more than ten miles a day. In the evening, he looked for a high dune, and stopped in the lee of it, out of the wind, and helped Mary and the baby down. He apportioned the water, drew the dry sticks from the saddlebag for the fire, and gave his spouse the privacy she and the infant needed until the food was ready.

  1. To Mary, Joseph became more precious by the hour because she understood his nobility and his sacrifice. She knew that her own burdens would be heavy—heavier, in time, than his—but hers were counterbalanced by the tremendous joy of having been chosen to be the mother of God. Also, she had the physical presence of the baby, and the attendant maternal joy of ministering to him, watching him grow stronger day by day, feeding him, changing him, and doing the scores of things a young mother enjoys doing for her own precious baby. She became occupied with the infant, turning away now and then to think of how lucky she was to have a man like Joseph. At these times, Mary’s heart sang with happiness. Already, she had everything good that a young lady could desire, and she had been married less than a year. Even if her precious little lamb had not been the messiah, she would have loved him to distraction. He was hers to fondle, to keep, to talk to even when he could not understand the words, to gaze upon lovingly, to dwell upon in the long hours of the hot sun, to plan for, to raise as her very own.

  1. These, for Mary, were the happy days, the days which would sustain her in the years to come. She would remember them, mystically, nostalgically down the corridors of time, and no matter how big her son grew she would remember him as a small, helpless infant who made cooing sounds, and flapped his arms and legs when he was bathed on her knees. The holy family moved on, day by day, toward the city of David, where all of this had started. Mary’s serenity was infectious, and Joseph stopped worrying about the future and spent more time in the evening with his little boy. They were south of Bethlehem when, in the evening, Joseph struck up a conversation with some Jews who had just left Bethlehem. He heard, for the first time, the details of the death of Herod, and he was disturbed to learn that a son called Archelaus was now on Herod’s throne. This worried Joseph, although it did not seem to impress Mary. He told her that he was now afraid to go through Jerusalem. They might be seen. Anyone might see the tiny burden would wonder why he had not been killed with the others. Someone might report it to the king. Mary thought about it. She said she would defer to Joseph’s judgment. The young foster father took a trail eastward, skirting Bethlehem, and moved on by stages to Jericho, then north to Nazareth. There, among the families of Joseph and Mary, the infant Jesus was safe, and grew, in strength and wisdom.

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