CHAPTER 4 PREVIEW:
‘No!’ screams Joseph, sitting up on his pallet, his clothes drenched with sweat, his thin blanket twisted around him. Every time he closes his eyes he sees Mary with another man. Or worse, he sees people hurling stones down upon her, shouting ‘Adulterer!’ ‘Harlot!’ Ever since she told him those stunning words, ‘I am with child,’ he has barely slept. He flings off the covers and jumps up, restlessly pacing the floor. Oh, Mary, I can’t get you out of my mind! Surely, love drives a man mad, he thinks. His heart heaves with torment. His fevered brain reels in confusion. My precious Mary, how could you wound our love so deeply? He has loved her almost beyond reason, but now all of his dreams of marriage and family have been shattered like a storm-tossed boat dashed against jutting rocks. How could she betray me like this? I loved her so. I would have given my life for her. She said she loved me too, but now I see it was all a sham. She only wanted a name for her baby. He throws himself back down on his pallet, beating his fists into his pillow… Tossing fitfully, he finally drops off into an exhausted sleep. Suddenly, in a dream, a supernatural presence invades his sleep.
He sees a light glowing brighter and brighter, and within the light he hears the voice of an angel. The voice seems almost audible: ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.’1 A profound peace floods his soul as the angel continues: ‘She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus because He will save His people from their sins.’ ‘Mary! My Mary!’ he cries, suddenly awakening, with the presence of God upon him. ‘Dear God, this baby is from you! I have been so wrong!’ He leaps from his pallet, splashes himself with water, throws on his tunic, and races out into the street toward Mary’s house. The orange glow of dawn is just peaking over the horizon as he runs breathlessly up the winding road. A few vendors are already beginning to set up their wares along the street. Several torches still burn restlessly, most standing cold and flameless.
But the flame in Joseph’s heart burns strong, fueled by the oil of his love and the grief of remorse. Dear God, I didn’t believe her! My precious little Mary, my beloved! ‘Oh, Mary, my Mary!’ he cries, tears stinging his blood-shot eyes as he stumbles up the path. What will I say when I see her? I promised at our betrothal to protect her and faithfully stand with her through all trials, but I walked out on her. I doubted her. How can she ever forgive me? How can she ever respect me as a man when I’ve been so easily deceived, thinking only of my feelings, not hers? When he finally reaches her home, he almost wants to break through the door, but then checks himself. Where are your manners, Joseph? he berates. He knocks, then pounds on the door, frantically calling her name.
Hannah opens the door cautiously, and he bursts into the little room, breathless and glowing. His eyes search the house for his beloved. There she stands, kneading dough for the morning meal, ringlets of dark hair hanging over her face. She looks up in shock. Her face looks drawn and pale, frightened by this explosive intrusion. What does he want? Has his pain driven him mad? Taking a step back, she flings back her hair and wipes her hands on her apron. Joseph starts toward her, then freezes, paralyzed by love. He searches her dark liquid eyes, looking for a flicker of love. She looks away quickly, her face blushing, hoping to hide her pain. Her heart feels cold and numb, almost unable to feel anymore…