This certainly is not what I’d planned! To be entrusted with this momentous charge has brought me to my knees. I’m a carpenter: great at building and repairing or handling problems and figuring out logical solutions. But as I’ve realized the weight of the responsibility thrust on my shoulders, my confidence has often flown out the window. Why in the world did Yahweh choose me to raise His son?!
The last couple of years have been complete bewilderment! It started when my fiancée, Mary, told me she was expecting a baby. She had this crazy story about an angel appearing to her, telling her this was Yahweh’s son, our Messiah. It was all too far-fetched for me! Even though I was furious, I just couldn’t bear to shame Mary publicly—that would completely destroy her. So I made arrangements to put her away quietly.
…until an angel appeared in my dreams and declared I shouldn’t be afraid to take Mary as my wife: this child in her womb was conceived by Ruach HaKodesh, God’s Holy Spirit. This majestic being also announced my boy’s name was to be Jesus. I didn’t even have the privilege of figuring out what name to give “my” son. So much for my plans! But I yielded to the angel’s instructions and took Mary as my wife. At least I’ve had this truth to carry me through all the strange incidents we’ve experienced: this boy really is our Messiah!
With my own hands, I fashioned a comfortable house for Mary in Nazareth, my hometown. I busily went about my preparations for welcoming Jesus into our home. I built a cradle for him and a special chair where Mary could rock him once he was born. But shortly before Mary was ready to deliver, Caesar Augustus made a decree: everyone in the entire Roman Empire needed to journey to the town of their fathers’ birth to be counted in a census! For us, that was my ancestor David’s hometown of Bethlehem in Judea, about 18 miles away. So off we went, down the road to Bethlehem to satisfy the whims of Caesar. It takes a while to hike 18 miles—even longer when one of the sojourners is nine months pregnant! That arduous journey was even slower than expected once Mary’s labor pains started. She was so uncomfortable she could hardly bear it, so we had to make frequent stops all along the way.
When we finally arrived in Bethlehem, I couldn’t even find decent accommodations for Mary. By then the town was overflowing with people like us who had traveled long distances to be registered in the census. All the rooms in the inn were occupied, and we ended up in the stable with the animals.
Once we got settled in a cow stall, it wasn’t long before Mary’s labor pains increased and that precious boy was born. As I held him in my arms, I couldn’t help but lament my thwarted plans. Instead of welcoming Jesus into the cozy home I’d crafted, here we were in a barn, laying Jesus in a feeding trough instead of the cradle I’d fashioned for him.
If I was so inadequate at providing a clean, safe place for Jesus to be born, how in the world was I ever going to raise this boy? Mary and I knew God was his real Father, but as far as everyone else around us was concerned, this boy was my son. How do you bring up a boy you hold in awe? I could teach Jesus everything I knew about how to work with wood, but how in the world would I equip Jesus to be our savior? How does a carpenter raise a king?
There was yet another strange series of events that came about when Jesus was still quite little—something that allayed some of those feelings of inadequacy and insecurity plaguing me as I tried to shoulder this grave responsibility. A group of astrologers from somewhere in the East showed up with the incredible story that a star had guided them to our exact location. If I hadn’t known who Jesus was, I would have barred the door, thinking they were crazy! But to my surprise, they announced they had come to see the King of the Jews. Very few people besides Mary and me knew that was true, so I let them in.
Finely dressed in exotic regalia, they bowed down and worshiped Jesus, presenting him with expensive gifts like nothing we’d ever seen: more gold than a carpenter like me could earn in a lifetime; precious frankincense “tears” like those used to make the special incense at the Temple in Jerusalem; and fragrant myrrh—a tree gum highly prized by the wealthy. They surely intended to give Jesus tremendous honor with these luxurious gifts, but what were we supposed to do with them?! What good are frankincense and myrrh to a little child and his parents? We are unassuming people of humble means, with no use for such luxuries. Do we keep these priceless gifts safe for Jesus until he grows up and becomes king? That seems like more of a burden than a blessing, to be honest.
Little did I know that these strange gifts were a divine provision. Instead of being a burden, we would desperately need them within a few short hours! That same night I had another angelic dream, like when I found out Mary was pregnant. You’d think when the angel showed up again, I’d be ready to have my carefully laid plans adjusted, but nothing could have prepared me for this divine being’s pronouncement.
The angel warned me Herod was searching everywhere for our son, planning to kill him! Even in my dream, my mind raced frantically trying to come up with a plan to shield Jesus from Herod. But I didn’t have to figure it out on my own: the angel laid out the journey God had for us. He instructed us to flee to Egypt immediately and stay there until he told me it was safe. As soon as I woke up from that dream, while it was still night, I awakened Mary and we hurriedly prepared our escape to Egypt. Thank heavens for that pile of gold! It would provide all that we needed to make the long, arduous trip.
What would we have done without those gifts from the foreign astrologers?…especially the gold?! I’m sure we would have lost valuable time trying to sell whatever we could to finance our journey. Even then, we never could have raised enough to take us all the way to Egypt.
By taking precious time to sell our belongings, we could have been too late. We later learned it was only a matter of days before Herod slaughtered all the little boys in Bethlehem under two years old. He was searching for the King of the Jews—our son—and Jesus would have been among the victims! Heartbroken, we’re still grieving for all the families who lost their babies in this brutal massacre. We feel horribly guilty for being the reason for this bloodbath. I’ve had nightmares about it, and Mary weeps at unexpected moments for Jesus’ little playmates who were murdered. We find ourselves torn between guilt for escaping and gratitude to God for this provision that allowed us to be on the road to Egypt within a matter of hours, away from Herod’s jealous fury.
Even with that weight of guilt, it’s clear: these gifts I could not understand—and even resented, to be honest—turned out to be Yahweh’s provision, a provision we didn’t realize we needed at the time it came into our hands. As we made our way along the long route to Egypt, I repeatedly marveled that we had more than enough gold coins for our journey. Now that we’ve reached our destination, we will be able to live in this strange land for as long as necessary by selling the frankincense and myrrh: the Egyptians highly prize these exotic spices. Along with my carpentry skills, these extraordinary, unexpected gifts will support us in this place where we are entirely strangers, all alone. Only Yahweh could have known we needed this provision!
I’m learning to hold onto these experiences as a reminder that I’m not alone as I continue to bear the challenging responsibility of raising Yahweh’s son. Although that charge still weighs on me heavily, I’ll be able to care for Jesus with more confidence knowing His Father in heaven sees us and provides all we need to raise Jesus well: resources, plans, strength, wisdom, and more! I want to remember that Yahweh is ready and able to provide for those needs—even before we ourselves realize we need them.
~ Kathryn Kircher, writer
~ Danyelle Yoder, artist, https://www.danyelleyoder.com/