The shepherds did not stay long, for they could see how tired Mary and Joseph were. But, as we all left the stable, I heard them talking.
“We must spread the word!”
“I want to tell my family!”
“Messiah! He’s come!”
They were gone into the night, and I went inside to my bed by the fire. I lay there restless, even though I was very tired. Finally, I got up and went back to the stable. All was quiet as I curled up in the straw just inside the entrance. The warm smells of the stable closed around me and the last sound I heard before I fell asleep was the soft murmuring of Mary to her baby. I did not wake when Elisabeth came to check on her and cover me with a blanket.
The next day Bethlehem was buzzing with the news the shepherds had spread. Many people came to see Mary and Joseph and their new son that week. Some believed the shepherd’s report and come to worship him. Others said angels did not speak with men these days, and anyway, if they had, someone besides shepherds would have heard them. Joseph did not argue with them but went to the Synagogue to be counted and did some carpentry work for Eli in return for his hospitality.
A few days later I overheard Joseph talking to Eli. “Mary is able to travel again now, but I would rather not return to our home in Nazareth. Do you think I might find a small house here in Bethlehem? I’m sure I could find work as a carpenter.”
“Well, there’s a widow’s house down by the stream,” said Eli, “Miriam died a few weeks ago and I don’t think anyone is planning to use it. It needs work, but if you like, I’ll ask about it for you.”
I ran over to Joseph. “I know where the house is, Joseph! I can show it to you.”
“Why, thank you, Micah that would be very helpful. Just let me tell Mary where we’re going,.” Joseph returned to the stable and I looked at Eli to see if he minded my being gone.
“Run along, Micah, you’ve been busy enough today!” he laughed.
Joseph and I walked to the other side of Bethlehem, down a shady path and finally to a small house. It was built like most of the houses; from adobe, with two rooms and steps running up to a flat roof. Joseph looked around. “I think this will do very nicely, if we can get it.”
“I’m glad you’re staying here, Joseph,” I said, “but why aren’t you going back to Nazareth so your family and friends can see the baby?”
Joseph sat down with his back to a tree, motioned for me to do the same, and began explaining the situation. “You see,” he said, “this child’s birth occurred under very strange circumstances. Before Mary and I became husband and wife, an angel appeared to her and said she had been chosen to become the mother of God’s Son, the Messiah; the Christ who had been promised for so many years to the people of Israel. Mary asked how that could be when she was not yet married, and the angel said it would be a special birth brought about by the Holy Spirit. And, just as he said, Mary soon found she was going to have a baby.
The angel had not spoken to me at that time, and I didn’t understand what had happened. I though Mary had been unfaithful to me, but I still loved her very much. So I began to make arrangements to have our engagement set aside quietly to cause her as little embarrassment as possible.”
“But,” I interrupted, “you ARE her husband…”
“I am now,” said Joseph, “but that was after the angel came to me. He told me not to be afraid to take Mary as my wife and to care for her because the child she carried was of the Holy Spirit and would be Christ, the Savior.”
“So that’s why you weren’t surprised when the shepherds came!” You knew he was special all the time!”
“Yes, Mary and I talked with the scribes and asked about all the old prophecies we could think of!” But the people of Nazareth did not know what we knew, and they looked down on Mary because they still thought as I had. It wasn’t until she went to visit her cousin Elisabeth that she became happy again. But that’s another story. The short of it is we decided it would be better to settle down here and raise the child in the birthplace of his ancestor, David.”
Joseph looked thoughtful. “He comes from kings, Micah. And he will one day be called King of kings and Lord of lords!” He shook his head in wonder. “I am not his real father, my little friend. I have only been given charge of him for a few years. I will teach him to be a carpenter, but I do not think he will stay long in the carpenter’s shop.”
“Could you teach me, too, Joseph? Could I learn to work with wood the way you do? I’d be very good and do all my work for Eli as well!”
“We will see!” laughed Joseph. “Now, let’s be getting back. I must see what Eli found out about the house and make arrangements for my family.”
So began two of the happiest years of my life. I helped Joseph get the little house ready for his family, and was there when they moved in. Joseph made what little furniture they needed and Elisabeth furnished them with cooking utensils. My days were divided between working for Eli and learning from Joseph.
Most interesting was the carving he did; spoons, bowls, little decorations he put on chairs and chests people bought from him. He taught me how to use a carving knife and when he saw I had some talent, he gave me a brand new knife he had made just for me.
Old Micah help up his knife. The handle was worn from much use and the blade had been sharpened until there was only a little of it left. This is the knife Joseph gave me,” he said. “It has served me well for many years and is as worn as the one for whom it was made.” He let the children look at it closely as he always did, and then continued his story.
As much as I loved being with Joseph, so did I love spending time with Mary and Jesus. Mary let me hold her little boy and I watched him grow and learn. I sat with him in the sun while Mary fixed lunch and walked with him in my arms beside the stream. I had never been around a little one before and my love for him grew strong. I told him all about my life and dreams and even my fears, as I rocked him in my arms. He would smile and make soft baby sounds as his hands explored my face and tugged at my hair.
I still thought of Elisabeth and Eli as my parents, but Joseph was like a big brother and his family my own. My happiness was great and joy was always ready to fill my day. Mary said she was grateful for my being there when Jesus began to get around on his own! I would take him to a grassy spot by the stream and let him crawl around investigating his world. I was even there when he took his first steps! I remember how he laughed and bounded up again each time he fell, and how he kept trying until he finally ran full tilt into Joseph’s arms.
After that we would form a parade, he and I, as we ventured out on daily expeditions. He waited each day for me to come, knowing his mother would let us go off together. I still recall how he loved to plop his chubby little feet down on the path, watching dust puff up around them! Oh, that was a happy time!
He learned to speak my name and say lots of other words. We sat together in the wood shavings around Joseph’s bench and played with the wood chips and bits of board that fell there. It was there I began carving lambs. Joseph was fond of telling us how we were God’s little lambs. I remember with what a sad smile he said that to Jesus! He would hold him and look at him with a special kind of wonder, as though he could not take in all this child was. Then, as Jesus’ eyes grew heavy, Joseph would hold him to his shoulder and sing to him about sheep and his heavenly Father until little Jesus’ head would nod against his chest and sleep would come.
The first lamb I carved was awkward, but Joseph liked it. And Jesus said, “Lamb” quite clearly when he saw it. When it was done to my satisfaction, I smoothed it very carefully so there would be no splinters and gave it to Jesus.
` “Was his lamb like this one, Micah?” Philip held up his lamb. “Was it just like this?”
“One of them was, Philip,” said Micah
(The first part of this story is found at http://www.mindsinger.com, the next installment will be posted in a day or two.)