Joseph’s Choice

Joseph’s Choice (a poetic reflection on Matthew 1:18-25)

Daily Office Readings for Friday, December 24, 2021: AM Psalm 45, 46; Baruch 4:36-5:9; Gal. 3:23-4:7; Matt. 1:18-25; Christmas Eve: PM Psalm 89:1-29; Isa. 59:15b-21; Phil. 2:5-11

Joseph had it all figured out,

he thought, when he went to bed that night.

I’m sure he still didn’t know what to make of it all…

It was too much for any sensible person to believe.

What he did know

was that he had negotiated with Mary’s parents

on the premise that Mary was a virgin,

and that certainly wasn’t the case now.


And he knew that some people

would have pushed for Mary to be punished

and the full letter of the law to be followed,

and he wasn’t up to that.

She’s young.  She’s naive.

She might not even understand what had happened to her.

Maybe this is her way of making her own shame subside,

he thought.


No, he would simply quietly work out

the undoing of this transaction.

His heart would heal, eventually,

and although he didn’t like to admit it,

he was actually looking forward

to them having a life together.

But this–

It’s just not a good way to start out.


Joseph knew tongues would be wagging.

As he stared at the ceiling, in the not-quite pitch dark,

the moon shining through the window,

he had to admit HE wasn’t quite ready for that.

He had spent most of his life

working hard to avoid ever being

the one people in town talked about.

Oh, he could hide behind some sort

of faux nobility

and say he didn’t want to put Mary

through the scrutiny of the gossips

but deep down,

he knew it was his own reputation he cared about most.


It was all settled

when he put his head on his bedroll for the night,

and he’d hoped to sleep soundly and blankly

and tomorrow, be able to sensibly begin 

the steps to extricate himself from it all.

It’s the sensible thing, he told himself.

It’s the kind thing at a time I don’t feel very kind,

but no one will think less of me when it does finally get out.


I wonder how many times any of us

went to bed convinced we knew the right thing,

the sensible thing,

and woke up the next morning

to do exactly the opposite–

because we discovered God had different plans.

Image: “Joseph’s Dream”, by Anton Raphael Mengs, at the Finnish National Gallery, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Maria Evans splits her week between being a pathologist and laboratory director in Kirksville, MO, and gratefully serving in the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri , as Interim Priest at Trinity-St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Hannibal, MO. 


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