This is a script I wrote for a Christmas event at American River, Kangaroo Island, held on Sunday 13th December 2015.
One Sunday in Advent in the year twenty umpteen.
To be honest I don’t remember what year it was, or how old I was, but I do know that it happened only the once. Yes there I stood, complete with dressing gown, socks with sandals, a tea-towel for a hat and a beard made from half a paper plate and a bit of brown scribble: Joseph in the school nativity tableau. Or was it church? It wasn’t Kinder, I know that much, I was a bloody ugly toddler: they made me a sheep that year, covered my face with cotton balls.
At least the beard’s real now even if this boof of a head now needs a beach towel.
But after decades in the church, and now probably around the age that he actually was at the time, I wonder how Joseph experienced the real Christmas eve.
I wonder what Advent means for the father of the Son of God. What would Christmas mean? Would hearing Away in a Manger or O Holy Night bring back good memories for Joseph? How would his Galilean brain cope with In The Bleak Midwinter? And don’t get me started on The Little Drummer Boy.
What would he think of the fat bloke in the red hat?
When I was Joseph I was chilled out. I gave a polite knock on the cardboard door and I received a polite refusal. “Hey have you got a room, my wife is having a baby?” “No sorry, we are all full up, but you can sleep in the stable.” “Okay thanks.”
Hmm. During my big moment the cattle weren’t lowing, but my baby sister was sooking on mum’s lap in the front row, I remember that much, I really had to speak up to be heard.
But how would I handle it now? I mean if it was real. My wife up the duff and ready to drop, the child not mine and yet in another way very much mine. And remember that this is Bethlehem, Joseph’s ancestral town. Even if the inns were full why wouldn’t he have stayed with a cousin or a sibling? Where were Joseph’s parents, weren’t they rounded up by the same census? Where were his brothers or his male cousins? My mum was there at my nativity play, quietly cheering me on with her beaming grin and watery eyes, ready with a big hug when I was finished even as she juggled my wriggly sister during most of the show. Did Joseph’s mum not think the same way?
How would I feel, my wife in labour in a motel carpark, my newborn son laid in a food trough, and all of my relatives across the road and tucked up tight at uncle Benjamin’s house?
I wonder whether Joseph went off alone and prayed, perhaps in the way that Jesus did later. You know, capital-F Father to small-f father: Father to father, Adonai to Abba. “I did my best LORD, but all I could do was a stable.”
“If this child is ‘Emmanuel: God with us’, then why are Mary and I so alone right now?”
I wonder if Joseph tried to apologise like that. I wonder if he expected God’s apology…
I wonder if even then Joseph had an inkling that, as wondrous a gift as Jesus was to the world, that it would not end well.
I wonder, do you also hear foreboding in The First Noel? What is to become of the one born to be King of Israel..?