By Norris Burkes Dec 24, 2023

Readers: This column is a Christmas meditation I wrote from the point of view of Jesus’ parents, Mary and Joseph. It proved to be a reader favorite when it was published in 2017, so I’m repeating it this year.


The crowing of the barn rooster stirs the young parents and their newborn son where they sleep amidst steaming piles of hay. The boy awakens, batting the air and fussing for a feeding.

Mary pulls Jesus to her breast, allowing him the nourishment he seeks. The moment belongs only to them, so Joseph turns over searching for sleep.

Soon, the sun streaks through the barn’s crevices, flooding it with light. The glare awakens the questions Mary sought so hard to keep to herself. 


He groans.


“What is it, Mary?” he asks.

“Tell me again what the angels said.”

Joseph props himself on his elbow. “The angels said, ‘Don’t be afraid.’”

“But Joseph! How can we not be afraid? We’re so young. We have nothing.”

Joseph rubs his eyes, hoping to find the clarity befitting Jesus’ stepfather.

“I’m not sure,” he says. “But maybe miracles come from ‘nothing.’ After all, God made an entire world from nothing.”

Mary offers only a respectful nod, causing Joseph to drop his head in his open palms.

“You’re right to be worried. I’m worried too,” he says. “How will I provide for you both?”

Mary reaches for Joseph’s face, cradling it with a warm hand. “I love you.”

It’s the way she answers most of Joseph’s worries.

His fingers trace Jesus’ hand as a means to answer his own question.

“This tiny hand will carry a hammer someday,” Joseph says. Then he stretches his own hands wide as if to bracket the sign he envisions. “We will be, ‘Joseph and Son, Galilean Carpenter Shop.’ ”

“According to your angelic friends,” Mary counters, “Jesus’ hands will also carry ‘great joy!’”

Mary moves Jesus to her other side and invites Joseph closer to share their presence.

“Will he change the world?” she asks.

“I’m not sure the world is ready for him,” Joseph says.

“No, it’s not, but it will be God’s timing. Not ours.”

Mary counts Jesus’ toes aloud, contemplating how to categorize him — man or God — when she dares a deeper question.

“What if God should want to take him back?” she asks.

At first, Joseph seems unwilling to consider the loss of his firstborn, even if it were somehow God’s will. He does his best to deflect his fear through two questions of his own.

“There’s only one thing that really bothers me, Mary. Who are we? How did we get so lucky?”

Mary stares at the thatched roof in contemplative silence. She is absorbing that word ‘lucky’ when Joseph revises his question.

“Or should I ask, ‘How did we become burdened?’”

“Joe! Watch what you say!”

“Honestly, who are we to be trusted with so great a task?” he asks.

“We’re nobody.” She pauses a few moments before adding, “Or, maybe we’ve been chosen because we are everybody.”

“That makes no sense,” Joe says.

“Yes, it does. Everyone will have to decide for themselves what to do with Jesus — just as we did.”

Joseph remains unimpressed.

“I’m not sure I can fully answer your question except to say, mankind is a part of God’s plan. I’d even say we are his plan.”

At that, Joseph shakes his head. “Goodness. Do you suppose God has a plan B?”

Mary puts the sleeping Jesus aside and playfully answers Joseph by stuffing his tunic with a handful of straw.

“I love you,” she says, “but I have one more question.”

“What?” he asks.

“Can we please get some more sleep while we still can?”


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