The Christmas Story Retold - Miriam and Yosef
For days, Miriam pondered the words that she heard from the Rabbi. According to Rabbi Matthias, a mighty warrior would come to free all of Judea from the threat of Gentile oppression from the Romans, Greeks, and the Egyptians. Miriam had not paid much attention to the rhetoric of daily politics in Nazareth. It was all too fantastic for her to entertain without feeling like her brain was being torn between logic and fanatical faith.
Her faith was simple and firm. She believed that there was a law given by Moses to the Kingdom and that one day the nation would be able to offer up service in freedom before the Creator without fear of Gentile laws. For now, she would obey all the laws of Rome. She knew what would happen to her, a Hebrew girl, if the Roman Guard were ever to get a hold of her for neglecting Roman law. Perish the thought. Luckily the Romans did not bother Hebrews too often.
For some reason, however, Miriam could not get the image from her mind painted by the Rabbi Matthias of a warrior-god riding a horse and vanquishing all the Gentiles from all of Judea and setting up the Kingdom of Israel. The image would not leave her alone. It was not only disturbing since she had been taught by both her mother and father that all people are precious no matter their heritage, but also that so many are supposed to die in a blood-rage by the very person who created them. Most horrifyingly, a woman with her name would give birth to it!
Who wants to give birth to such a creature, she poses rhetorically to herself?
“I do not want something like that to come from me,” she stated flatly with a quick shudder to emphasize the point.
The Rabbi had told her small group that the savior of Israel would be born of a woman and rip his way out of the womb to bring glory to Israel speedily—being born a full-grown man! This man was supposed to be as large as the legendary Goliath who her ancestor David slew with a sling.
Miriam shuddered again. All too Roman sounding, she thought. The Rabbi said that any girl among them could be the lucky one to give birth to the very God of Israel as the prophecies foretold. She thought about the mixed reactions the Rabbi received from the women. Several of them started to cry while others beamed with pride and hope. Miriam sat with pursed lips during the entire speech. Elisheba, her oldest cousin, was there with them. She smacked her lips loudly in protest. Miriam giggled at the thought. She could always count on Elisheba to set the record straight without it being evident to the Rabbi. Secretly, both Miriam and Elisheba hoped that a miracle would happen, and Rabbi Mathias would get pregnant and bring forth the monstrosity he preached about.
Miriam did not show her disagreement as openly as Elisheba was apt to do, but she shook her head on the inside against it as often as she felt something wrong. Her father was a man of faith and had scrolls that did not depict the salvation of Israel coming the way many Rabbis of the day portrayed him.
No. She remembered that it was supposed to be an unassuming coming at first—normal. She, however, wondered at Rabbi Mathia’s interpretation. As opinionated as she was, still knowing that the Rabbi was a learned man and knew more than she did about the ancient prophesies, doubt was ever present as increasingly people thought like the Rabbi. She shuddered again thinking back on those words of his with a quiet hope that she would not be required to do something like that.
She had been witness to several births, and could not imagine a man the size of a giant growing inside of any woman that she knew!
“I pity the poor soul who has to bear that burden,” she mourned aloud with bowed head as she sat on the steps of her Father’s garden. She had gone there to get away from the bustle of the house due to the celebrations that went on it seems daily regarding her betrothal to Yosef.
“Yosef,” she spoke his name quietly--dreamily. She knew him well. Yosef was an older man with such a handsome face—her cousin. No, she never said it out loud, but she felt lucky that the man who sought her hand in marriage was ruddy and young compared to her sister’s husband. She remembered her sister crying the entire betrothal period about having to marry such an old man in the garden where she thought no one could see.
“Poor Ruth,” she whispered with sad expression. It had been almost two years since she saw her last. Ruth never knew that Miriam saw her weeping in private. Ruth put on a good face in public and to their parents, but she feared her husband would be unkind—at least that is what she said when Miriam asked her about it initially. Yosef was gentle.
Miriam was a stunning girl, and Yosef’s family made sure that the contract with Miriam’s family was secured while she was yet a small girl. She mused of Yosef during family gatherings would play with the kids and give them rides on his back like a donkey. A smile glinted across her face as she thought back to her cousin, Yosef, the goof who would now be her husband. Her life was so blessed and utterly wonderful. A husband who she knew was gentle and strong—not to mention handsome and young—would build her a home with fine furnishing being a carpenter.
Miriam stood to see if anyone was on the way to the garden. She wanted to pray in private to thank God for blessing her life so richly at 17 years old. Being much older than many of her friends when they married, she thought she would get an older man like Ruth. She truly wanted to thank God for giving her a gentle young man of only ten years her senior, or thereabouts. Seeing no one coming towards the garden, she prostrated herself on a soft mat of platted grass she had tucked in her bag to show her gratitude.
Gabriel and Miriam
When she arose, she was startled to find a man standing before her dressed in the most exquisite clothing she had ever seen. He was a vision to look upon besides! Words escaped her, though she wanted to scream.
“Fear not,” began the man. “I bring you good tidings of great joy.”
Somehow, the fear left her heart. Without meaning too, Miriam found herself kneeling on her grass mat as the man kept a respectful distance.
“I am, Gabriel. I am a servant of the Lord here to tell you that you are a chosen woman.”
“What,” Miriam whispered quietly—inaudibly almost. Seriously, she thought. This is not happening right now. Tell me I am not really being told that I am going to be the mother of that beast-god.
“Of a truth, woman. I am an angel of the Lord. I am here to tell you that you shall give birth to a child…”
As Gabriel spoke, the truth of the words he spoke washed away all the fear and doubt placed there by the words of Mathias. Her mind became clear and she saw a vision of the child who Gabriel said would be name Yeshua. She thought it odd that the child would have such a common name, but kept it too herself.
Miriam received the strength to speak after getting such a revelation from this familiar feeling stranger—an Angel no less—asking, “How? How shall this be, seeing I know no man?”
Gabriel told her how and gave her comfort by telling her of Elisheba’s miraculous pregnancy when she was thought to be barren—besides the fact that she is old. The only difference was, Elisheba was married already. No one would suspect her of infidelity. Those fears left her in the moment that they came, and she bowed deeply to the ground saying, “I am the vessel of the Lord. Let it be to me as you have said.”
Before her eyes, Gabriel vanished. Weeks passed before she thought about that experience again—allowed herself to think about it! Her belly had already shown signs of swelling. She went to stay with Elisheba with the intent to seek counsel from her and hide her growing womb from family. She promised herself that she would tell no one unless Gabriel returned and instructed her to do so. She could trust Elisheba. Would Yosef understand, she lamented.
Rumors spread like wildfire. Yosef had not seen his betrothed for several months as he was preparing for the wedding and traveling on business. Whisperings came first. Yosef was to be the new patriarchal leader of the clan and Miriam to be his queen.
“I can only tell you this much, Yosef,” went the somber words of Ya’achob to his distressed son. If you love her, do this thing quietly and get her out of this place. She will be anathema if this is known.”
“Abba, I know that this cannot be right. I know Miriam. She would do nothing like this. Someone forced it on her! If I find the man…”
“No, son. It has been done. She is showing. Her robes can only conceal it for so long. She told you that an angel visited her and told her she would bear the Son of God!”
Ya’achob thought carefully about his next words, “She did not claim that she was taken against her will son.”
“Father!” Yosef’s voice was stern with deep baritone resonance—controlled and respectful. “Miriam does not lie.”
“It is the law of Moses, Yosef.” Ya’achob placed a hand on his strapping son—a man who could fell trees like cutting grass and lift his weight in stones. This towering man being brought to his knees by the love for a woman that for all intents and purpose broke her marriage vow.
“You are days away from official marriage. Take her and be discrete if you are to divorce her. I will leave you to think about it. We all know Miriam. I have loved her and still do as my own daughter. The question for you is: Can you live with the doubt in your mind knowing that your wife has a child that you did not father?”
Yosef’s face bore no expression as his father left the tent—Yosef temporary shelter. He needed to be alone. Tears streamed down his face as he thought of how much he loved this woman. Hurt. Wounded beyond his capacity to think clearly, Yosef knelt in his tent and cried through a prayer.
I must put her away privately so that she will not be cast out by the clan, he thought. He had seen it before. Prostitution was the result of such women.
Yosef punched the ground and grumbled, “NO!”
His love for her went past her perceived infidelity. Then, his father’s words came to him. Can you live with the doubt in your mind knowing that your wife has a child that you did not father?
As he wept and prayed and pondered about what to do, sleep came to him in the very attitude of praying on his matt on the dirt floor. He dreamed. It was a nightmare.
Yosef saw faceless people dressed in traditional garb chanting and shouting “Whore!” “Harlot!” Men women and children cursed and spat at a woman on the ground sobbing and pleading. It was Miriam.
Miriam was taken by that large group of people, family members. Yosef understood that the divorce was final, and the baby born; so, the clan was called upon by the community to either sell her into slavery or execute her!
Yosef used all the strength in his body to fight back the growing crowd of hate until he stood beside Miriam. In a dark and hissing voice, Miriam whispered words that Yosef could not understand before she turned gray and her eyes crumbled out of her face as stones descended upon her from the crowd. she was stoned to death according to Hebrew law!
Yosef screamed in agony calling for the Guard to help because it was against Roman law for anyone other than a Roman to administer capital punishment. The crowd surrounded him and became a black smoky—choking the life out of him.
In heart-broken despair, he called out to God as he sank to a ruin of unknown power when a light appeared before him and surrounded him. Before him stood a glorious man, who introduced himself as Gabriel….
Yosef arose from his bed filled with the same testimony that Miriam had given. He took his beloved Miriam, married her straight away, and went to live in Bethlehem where she gave birth. None of his clan in that city would question him or Miriam about the child. Angels had attested to others of the child’s glorious mission and birth—shepherds.
The heavens even brought the light of a star the night the child arrived. Yosef made a vow as he saw the hand of the Lord bless his family. He would rather leave the Hebrew nation than call into question the integrity of his family and marriage. He would protect his son and wife with all the wisdom and power of his being. He would raise God to be as gentle and loving as was he.