Every year over the past three decades, I have written a Christmas story to read to the children who attend worship at St. Philip on Christmas Day.

Remarkably, Jenni Jennings remembered one of those stories from fourteen years ago and this week, with the help of puppets, music, readings, and actors this story will come to life again.  Here is the story that will be reborn this Saturday through the beauty of our community under Jenni’s creative guidance:

AN UNCERTAIN JOURNEY
CHRISTMAS STORY DECEMBER 2005 BY C. PAGE

My name is Joseph. You may have heard of me, although I am not really terribly famous. Most people know about my wife. Her name is Mary. And almost everyone has heard of the boy we raised as our son. His name was Jesus.

I am a carpenter.  It is a good job. I work with my hands and build things people need. When a carpenter works, nothing is wasted. The feel of the wood in my hands, and the smell of the sawdust on my workshop floor make me feel that everything is right with the world. In my workshop I feel as if I am at home.

But I have not always felt at home. Just before Jesus was born I had to go on a long journey. I had to take Mary and leave my workshop and everything familiar and go far away. The Emperor Augustus had this crazy idea that everyone he ruled should be counted. And to be counted you had to travel to the town where you were born. I was born in Bethlehem.

At first I thought I would leave Mary in Nazareth and go by myself. You see Mary was pregnant even though we were not married yet. The whole thing was pretty confusing and embarrassing and awkward. I loved Mary and did not want to put her in a bad position with her family and the rest of the people of Nazareth. But, you see, I knew I was not the father of this baby. And I did not know who the father was, nobody knew and Mary wasn’t saying, at least not saying anything that made sense. I thought it would be best if I just kind of disappeared. Then Mary could be with the real father of her child.

But one night I saw something. I don’t know exactly what it was. I guess you might call it an angel. But carpenters don’t usually talk much about angels. Whatever it was I heard this voice telling me I should keep Mary with me and take her to Bethlehem. The angel said that somehow God had caused Mary to become pregnant – which is what Mary had been telling us – and I should live as the father of this child. He said the baby would be called Jesus.

So I prepared to make the long difficult journey to my birthplace with Mary.

Now I don’t mean to complain but this was all pretty strange. And that journey cost me a lot. When a carpenter leaves his workshop and doesn’t work, he doesn’t get paid. It’s simple – no work, no pay and I was already pretty poor. And Mary was pregnant and travel is not all that safe between Nazareth and Bethlehem. There are robbers on the road and dangerous animals hiding in the hills. I am not usually scared by much but I was really uneasy about making this trip.

We didn’t know anyone in Bethlehem anymore. Although I was born there, I had been gone for a long time and had no friends and no family left in the village. I had no idea where we would stay when we got there. I was really nervous that, while we were gone it might be time for the baby to come.

But there was nothing we could do. When the Emperor makes a rule, you obey or you are in big trouble. So we set off. Things went well until we arrived at Bethlehem. Then things did not go so well. Because everyone was returning home to be counted, all the places in Bethlehem where we might have stayed over night were filled up. There was just nowhere for us to sleep that first night. Imagine how I felt with Mary pregnant and feeling like the baby was getting ready to come and I didn’t even have a room for her, let alone a bed for the baby.

Finally, an innkeeper had pity on us and allowed us to sleep in the old shed behind his inn. We shared the shed a few animals; but at least it was dry and fairly warm. Some time during the night, Mary began to moan. I knew then that the baby was coming. I had never seen a baby born, let alone been the only one to help a woman give birth. But somehow Mary knew the right things to do. She helped me more than I helped her. And, by morning we had a beautiful little brand new baby boy. I told Mary his name was to be Jesus and she just accepted it as if she had known all along that this was the way things should be. That’s kind of the way Mary is you know.

At first I thought this was the end of all the strangeness in our lives but then there were shepherds who showed up talking about a Saviour who had been born, and angels in the hills singing “Glory to God”. After that there were wise travellers who came from a distant land and brought gifts for Jesus. I did not know what to make of any of this. I just wanted to be a quiet carpenter working in my shop and living a simple uncomplicated life.

But sometimes life is more complicated than we might wish. Jesus grew up to be a special man. He became a great teacher and healed many people and did amazing things. Then the leaders became angry with Jesus and tried to destroy him so he could not teach any more or help people. It was all terribly sad. It seemed such a waste that his life should be destroyed. Many people felt their hearts would break because of what happened to Jesus.

Then, three days after Jesus died everything changed. Hope came back into the hearts of those who had loved Jesus.

You see life is not always like a carpenter’s workshop where if you measure each piece of wood carefully and connect all the bits properly you end up with a beautiful piece of furniture. When we made that trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem nothing seemed to be in the right place. Nothing seemed to fit. Life felt so chaotic and out of control. I felt lost and scared.

But when we were settled in Bethlehem in that old stable with no proper place to sleep, as soon as I saw Jesus, I knew it was going to be ok.

It might seem strange that a grown-up man should say that his life felt strong and secure because of a tiny baby. But it is true. I did not understand it at the time. But, when Jesus grew up he taught me that the power and peace I had seen in him as an infant, lived inside of me. And I have carried that deep feeling inside ever since. Even when Jesus died in such a terrible way, I knew that the people who who tried to destroy him could never destroy the beauty and truth of his life. They could not defeat the power of Jesus that we all found inside ourselves after he had been taken away.

So, every year, people all over the world now remember the day the boy I raised as my son was born. They remember because they find inside themselves that he has not really gone. His peace and his strength, live on even today in those who open their hearts to the beauty and gentleness of an infant and live in the love and truth that Jesus embodied.

So nothing is wasted. God uses everything to teach us love and to help us find the gift of peace. When we find this peace, no matter what uncertain journeys we may have to make, we always know we are at home. The pieces fit. We are at home because Jesus is our true home. He is the place where we really belong. There is nothing else we need to know. This is the greatest Christmas gift of all.