Matthew 1:20-21

But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”


Joseph’s fingers still tremble days later as he considers everything Mary told him.

What to do? What to do?

He spent days in prayer, and now sits alone, listening to his betrothed hum in the kitchen where she cleans up after Shabbat dinner. So graceful. So beautiful and kind, his Mary.

No, not his. If what she says is true, she is not his at all. She is not his wife, and that is not his baby.

And if she lies…

If the baby belongs to another man in the village?

Joseph shudders a haggard breath in and out and lets his feet carry him outside where he settles his knees into the red dirt. He can hear Mary’s young siblings playing in the small house as all the worry floods out of him in prayer.

He blushes at the shame he feels, tears fill his eyes at the reactions of the villagers when they hear–the way they will treat Mary, the kind of future she’ll have. More tears come as he considers marrying her, raising a child he didn’t father, always wondering the truth. If only he could know with the same certainty she seems to know. How can she be so sure, even if it’s a lie?

Joseph feels lighter as he stands, though still unsteady as he bids the family farewell and dons his sandals for the walk home. The trek, lighted by a clear sky full of stars, the gentle hills, and stony path are enough to tire Joseph out. He falls onto his bed as soon as he gets in, and falls into a restless sleep.  

Tossing and turning, sandals still on, belt still fastened, Joseph dreams he sleeps next to Mary. She’s round with a growing baby, hair soft around her cheeks. Her breath comes with the steadiness of sleep and peace. As he watches her sleep, an angel, as bright and real as the sun itself steps into the room, throwing light on Joseph, Mary, and the walls around them.

“Joseph, don’t be afraid to take her as your wife,” the angel turns a love-filled face to Mary. “The baby in her womb is from the Holy Spirit.”

Joseph sits up, speechless.

“She will have a Son,” the angel continues, “and you will name Him Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”

Joseph shuffles to his knees before the broad-shouldered figure before him.

Turning back to gaze at his betrothed, Joseph’s breath catches at the empty bed–and the angel who’d spoken all these things, gone.

Joseph sits up in his bed in wonder. Minutes pass as the sky outside lightens with pre-dawn blue. He can’t sleep, but stares in the place the angel stood, and the space where his bride lay.

Just like the prophet said, Joseph recalled.

A virgin, he realized.

Jesus, he breathed.