On the day after the birth of his son who wasn't really his son, Joseph the carpenter watched the sun come up over the little town of Bethlehem. It had been a hellish last couple of days, what with the nose-to-tail census of Quirinius traffic-jam on the Nazareth-Bethlehem donkey-way, and then the cock-up with the booking at The Inn. Then, on top of the whole giving birth thing, suddenly every man and his camel was dropping in to say g'day to the boy. Nightmare.
But here, in the stillness of the early-morning, Joseph felt calm, at peace. The wise men had stopped talking and were snoring gently in their corner of the stable; the shepherds had finally gone back to their flocks; even the bloody cattle had quit their incessant lowing. Mary and the boy were asleep; the boy who had not cried once the whole time. Joseph's guess was that this inner serenity came with the territory of being the Son of God.
It had been a heck of a night, what with the actual birth and then all these complete strangers coming over to adore the boy. That some of them brought presents was nice. The gold might have been a tad too much, but the myrrh was lovely. Joseph wasn't a big fan of frankincense because, for some reason, he associated the word with big hulking monsters, but the thought was what counted. He also wasn't a fan of the pale, bland, giant chicken thing that the innkeeper's wife had cooked for them to celebrate his son's birth. Joseph couldn't see this catching on in the future.
Of course not everything had gone smoothly. When the wise men dropped into the conversation that they were meant to tell Herod where to find the boy, so that he could kill him, that was an awkward moment. Mary had not reacted well to this news and, even after they assured her that now that they'd seen the young fella no way were they doing this, she still wanted them to take their gifts and hook off. It had taken her ages to calm down, but the weirdest thing, for Joseph, was that through all the shouting and the flinging of myrrh, the little boy, no crying he made.
Here, in the cold hard light of day, Joseph had to face the fact that there was a lot that was weird about being the surrogate father of the son of God. He wished his mates back in Nazareth had been more understanding about it, but when he talked to them about being visited by angels they'd all told him he was mad and then started throwing rocks at him so he flagged it away pretty early on. People say harsh words hurt the worst, but the rocks were painful too.
In his darkest moments Joseph had wanted to believe that he was mad, that his son was actually his son and not the son of an omnipresent celestial deity.
Joseph loved the idea of Joseph and Son, the carpentry firm; but what with all the visiting angels and the whole star leading the wise men to the stable thing he had to admit there was something out-of-the-ordinary about the boy. Who knows maybe he'd grow up to be the one who ended all wars for the rest of eternity. That would certainly be something for a dad, even just the human one, to be proud of.
But for now the biggest sticking-point, and the thing playing most on Joseph's mind, was the naming of the boy. Immanuel was currently his favourite, because he'd read in a book once that God would get a virgin pregnant, who shall be the Son of God. And who shall be called Immanuel - which sounded freakishly like their situation so clearly could not be ignored. Joseph also liked the name Neil, but he was pretty sure this one wouldn't make the cut. Mary was a big fan of Jesus, which Joseph was warming to, as a name; despite Kanye, the lippy kid from the stable next door, saying everyone would call him Yeezus at school.
Joseph sat in the early-morning Bethlehem sunshine, appreciating the calm after the storm. Sure he had a lot on his mind, especially the whole Herod wanting to kill his son thing, but right here and right then he was loving the moment. Yeah, there was something special about this time of year, something that almost made you want to stand up and sing about peace on Earth and goodwill to all.
But Joseph didn't do that, because his feet hurt from walking all the way from Nazareth, beside Mary on the donkey. So he simply sat, enjoying the serenity.
Then somewhere a cow started lowing.