The carpenter Joseph was sweating and tired. It was still winter, so he had spent all day crafting those miniature crosses people liked to display in their homes. The ones that represented the seasonal hangings that took people’s mind off the harsh weather. Personally, he thought it was a bit tacky, but it helped bring in money for his beautiful, darling fiancee, Mary.
Breathlessly, he opened the door to his house, and there she was: covered in dirt and coughing a bit, as everyone was at that time. She looked concerned.
“You looked concerned”, Joseph said. “Tell me what’s wrong.”
“I do not look concerned. Why do you always say that?” Mary said.
“I do not always say that.”
“Well, I do have something to share,” Mary said.
“Well, good,” Joseph said.
“But I’m not telling you because you told me to tell you what’s wrong. I’m telling you because I want to tell you, and it has nothing to do with whether or not I look concerned, which I don’t.”
“Okay, fine.” Joseph said.
“Joseph, I’m pregnant.”
Joseph stood there, stunned. They had not yet fornicated. Or even french kissed, just in case. Sex ed was pretty shoddy back then.
“What the shit, Mary. Who is it?”
“Well, Joseph…it’s God’s.”
“Yep, we’re all children of God, yadda yadda, I get it. But whose baby is it?” Joseph repeated.
“No. I mean that God literally came down and impregnated me.”
Wordlessly, Joseph stared at her. “You can’t be –”
“And it was good.”
Joseph had spent the last several months working on making his covered wagon the best covered wagon in town, to compensate for being royally cockblocked by God – or whomever. It had a sick spoiler now, and if you made sound effects while you rode in it, you could imagine it was a chariot.
They were in it now, he and Mary, headed to Bethlehem for the census. One would think that by the modern year of 4 BC, they would be doing it by carrier pigeon or even smoke signal – but no, they still had to do the whole damned thing the old-fashioned way.
Joseph was a bit frustrated.
“So, the angel told me that we should name him Immanuel.” Mary broke the silence.
“Well, somebody’s son.” Joseph said quietly.
“What?” said Mary.
“Nothing,” said Joseph. “That’s such a formal name. Why don’t we just call him Jesus for short.”
“Oh, like the town fool back at home? Or the mud farmer down the street?” Mary scoffed.
“It’s a good working man’s name.”
“We’re calling him Jesus, Mary.”
Ding! Ding! went the bell at the hotel’s reception. Joseph was getting frustrated. Mary’s water had broken, and they needed to find a room fast. As Joseph had repeatedly expressed, he was a bit surprised that the baby didn’t just magically appear outside Mary when it was ready, but he guessed it didn’t work the same way coming out as it did coming in.
“I’m sorry, sir. But there are no vacancies.” said the front desk man, hurrying back to the front desk where he belonged.
“But we’ve tried all the other hotels!” Joseph wailed.
“Spit it out,” said Joseph.
“My cousin has a barn out back you can use.”
“And let me guess: the rate’s the same.”
“Well, it has an en suite.”
“Push!” Joseph yelled. “Push!”
He knew this baby was supposed to be special and all, but this whole thing was pretty disgusting. At this moment, he was happy they’d never had the need to consummate the marriage. Suddenly, he thought of something.
“Are we going to tell the kid that I’m not his father?” Joseph asked, politely.
Mary did not respond.
Holding the newborn baby Jesus in his arms, with his wife sleeping beside him, he finally felt like he could take a deep breath and relax. The miracle of life was –
Joseph sighed. Deeply. He placed Jesus in a nearby manger.
“We hate to interrupt, but we’ve come from a land far away to witness the birth of the son of God”, said one of the three men at the door, dressed in pretentiously flowy robes.
“How did you even find us?” asked Joseph, wearily.
“We followed the brightest star in the sky, and it led us to you.”
“What’s that map for, then?”
“The, um, what?” said the wiseman, quickly moving his hand to block the map sticking out of his pocket.
“The map, right there. It’s got a route drawn on it and everything.” Joseph pointed.
“We brought gifts!” offered the second wiseman, helpfully. “I brought gold.”
“Now you’re talking!” said Joseph.
“Well…they’re not for you. They’re for the son of God.”
“The one who’s, like, zero years old?” asked Joseph, incredulously.
“Look, we’re not thrilled about this either,” said the second wiseman. “How much money do you think wisemanning really makes? This is like half our savings.”
Joseph looked around him, at the barnyard animals licking his son, at the straw and feces strewn about everywhere. It smelled awful.
“Did you at least bring any perfume or something?” he asked, with little hope.
There were more knocks on the door: shepherds. Joseph wasn’t even surprised at this point. For some reason, this had quickly become the social event of the evening.
“So, you must be the famous ‘God’ I’ve been hearing about,” said one of the shepherds, reaching out his hand.
“No. That’s, um…somebody else.”
“Oh. I just thought, because –”
“It’s fine,” said Joseph.
“I hear the new King of Men has been – OH JESUS CHRIST!” exclaimed another one of the shepherds, upon seeing the baby Jesus.
“Yeah, well I haven’t really had the time to clean him off yet,” said Joseph, with a pointed look. “He’s still pretty gross-looking.”
Joseph looked at his new son. And maybe it was because of the extreme fatigue and lack of sleep, but he really was his son – no matter what the reality of the situation was. Yes, Joseph would be there for –
“Would somebody PLEASE cut that racket out. This is a birthing, not a band practice!” screamed Joseph.
In the corner, the little drummer boy stopped playing and rolled his eyes. “FINE!”