Mary was resting in her favourite place atop the roof of Zechariah’s house. At least here there was no hiding her away: she mused to herself as she reflected over the events of recent weeks. Word had reached her from her parents that Joseph, gentle giant Joseph, wasn’t going to humiliate her in public. He would quietly break their engagement, and move away. Her heart ached for the carpenter who even now was showing her great kindness. She was content to wait her time with Elizabeth and her beautiful family; she did not look beyond the pending birth of her own son, who was even now making his presence felt with a mighty kick.
In the distance, she saw a man walking with purpose towards the village. The shimmering heat rising off the sun-scorched earth made it hard to make out who it was, but there was something familiar about his long sloping strides. Mary bolted upright, ‘Joseph’ she cried, a multitude of thoughts racing through her head. ‘Had he changed his mind? Was he so angry that he would search her out, drag her home and shame her through the narrow streets of Nazareth?’ She steeled herself for what was to come, and determined that she would meet him on the way, and try to have some small moments with him again, before the inevitable happened.
She held her tummy tightly as she ran down the steps outside the house, and made her way through the gateway of the village, ignoring the questioning gaze of Zechariah who was still in the place of honour among his peers. As she ran towards Joseph, the most extraordinary thing happened, a peace beyond her young years filled her and somehow she knew that all was well. This was confirmed when Joseph too started running, arms wide to embrace her. As he spun her round she noticed he had tears flowing down his long loving face. ‘Oh Mary, my Mary!’ he cried, ‘Forgive me…’
They both sank to their knees, still embracing, both crying, ‘Oh Joseph, my heart, by love, it is life itself to see you!’ she cried. They hadn’t noticed Zechariah and the village elders had followed her, and were now standing a little way off, unwilling to break into such an intimate moment, but moved by the obvious joy of their reunion. ‘My friends’ coughed Zechariah, still catching his breath, ‘please welcome Joseph, son of Heli. He’s a gifted carpenter’, then he smiled, ‘and he’s the husband of our Mary!’ (or at least he soon will be, thought the old priest to himself as he perceived the deep love between the couple before him).
They all returned to the village where the gossip mongers were delighted to report to others that the mysterious Mary was, after all, honourable and chaste; (just as they had always suspected!). Elizabeth showered Joseph with welcome hugs and kisses, her heart soaring as she saw the contentment written on young Mary’s face. As the crowds faded away Joseph told them how he had been shocked and saddened to hear of Mary’s news. Assuming she had found love with another, he decided he could not shame her nor stand in her way. Instead he had gone into the hills around Nazareth to rant and roar at God and life itself. ‘As I lay on the dust, crying and shouting,’ he explained, his hand embraced by Mary’s two hands, ‘ I perceived a growing light above me, even though it was darkening night I could see all around me as if it were the brightest day. Then this messenger, this angel appeared with words that comforted me and tore me to pieces. ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a boy, and you, as his earthly father, are to give him his name: ‘Jesus’; for he will indeed save his people from their sins’. Joseph smiled lovingly at Mary, ‘those words tore me too, because I realised I had not given thought to what you were going through. That was the moment I realised that I am unworthy of you, but it was also the moment I knew in my heart of hearts that I would do whatever it takes to win you back!’
As he and Mary wept fresh tears, Gabriel watched, hidden, his own heart moved by such honest human love. He smiled as he heard the aging priest say’ ‘Well it seems I am not quite finished with my priestly duties yet. Elizabeth, bring John over, it’s time he got to witness his first wedding!’