A reworking of what Luke and Matthew (chapters one and two) tell us about the birth of Jesus and His early life...

When Mary told the story of her eldest son, her first-born, she also needed to explain the part played by Joseph, her husband. It was not an easy story to tell. It seems likely that Joseph had died some time before she told her story to Luke and Matthew. We do not know if Joseph lived to witness the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, but we do know he had accepted God's call to be the child's earthly father - he had played a very important part in Jesus' story. I suspect that Jesus' resurrection was the trigger that helped Mary tell the story. It was very strange. But she trusted God and she also was a faithful witness to what God had done in her life by bringing His Son into the world.

Mary collected all the stories she could about her son. She passed them on with the help of God's Spirit to others and ever since these stories have helped students in Jesus' school to understand their Rabbi and what He had come to do. Mary was part of an artistic family network. Elisabeth, her cousin, was married to Zechariah, a priest, who wrote songs. Mary wrote lyrics for songs, and, I guess, she kept a diary.

PICTURE: Luís Graça/www.stockphoto.com

"We do not know if Joseph lived to witness the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, but we do know he had accepted God's call to be the child's earthly father - he had played a very important part in Jesus' story."

Mary's most famous song was written after an angel visited her. "You'll have a baby," the angel said, "and it will be God's own son." "OK," said Mary, "but I'm only engaged." The angel said: "God is taking care of you, there is nothing to fear." "OK" said Mary "since God knows what He's doing it's OK by me."

In those days getting married was a year-long process, and Mary and Joseph had been looking forward to their wedding party at the end of the year. Their future marriage had been announced to all the people of the town at their first party. The people also expected the second party. But now, with Mary pregnant, Joseph knew the second party couldn't happen. In fact, at first he decided to call off the marriage. But then something else very strange happened.

The angel visited Joseph in a dream to tell him what was happening. The messenger also delivered a special request. God wanted Joseph to go ahead and marry Mary and act as the baby's father.

God's angel told him not to worry, and so Joseph calmed down and thought it best to marry Mary straight away rather than wait until the baby was born. So she moved in with him. When you are pregnant you have to rest and not have too much stress.

Joseph loved Mary a lot. He weathered the disruptions in his life by trusting that God would tie up all the loose ends. That's the kind of guy God wanted him to be.

Because Joseph believed what the angel had said, to Mary's delight she found he was willing to believe what she said too! When you believe, 'God trust' is sort of contagious. To show Joseph that God really wanted him to act as the father, the angel gave him the name for the baby. This was even before they had discovered whether it was a boy! The naming of the child was Joseph's special task. God had given it to him.

Joseph had a cool head in a crisis. Not long after Mary moved to his house their plans were disrupted again. Caesar Augustus had issued a decree for a census and so Joseph had to register in his home town Bethlehem. But guess what? The day on which he had to register was around the time that Mary was due to give birth. Joseph decided that he couldn't leave Mary by herself in Nazareth.

Sure, she had looked after herself when she first became pregnant. She knew what had to be done with all that women's stuff about birth and so on. But what about the people of the town? Could they be relied upon? Besides, the angel had explicitly spoken to Joseph, not to the people in the town. God had made him responsible for the baby. So there was nothing else for it but to take Mary with him to Bethlehem.

As they rode into Bethlehem, Mary's waters broke. Joseph thought he knew some places where they could find a room but the only place he could find was a garage, at the back of a hotel where the animals were kept. All rooms had been taken. There was not even one small room left for a mother to give birth to her baby.

So, there was nothing else for it but for Jesus to be born then and there among the animals; Joseph made sure it was as clean and comfy as possible. He didn't seem to mind. The census registration was done and in a week or so it would be back to Nazareth, again.

Then came a knock at the door. In trooped some shepherds, carrying some baby lambs, singing songs about God's promises and getting all excited about the lamb who would take away the sins of the world. When they finally left after an early breakfast, Jesus was sleeping soundly. Mary was washing her clothes. Joseph dosed off feeling rather satisfied. He had done what God had asked him to do. The baby was born and now for a good morning's nap. But he couldn't sleep peacefully. He started having dreams. He started feeling that they were in some kind of danger.

In a few days they were visited by some very strange guests who had come on a long journey, strange rulers, men of wisdom visiting from eastern regions, far, far away. These were the presents they brought for the baby Jesus: gold; incense and perfume; and, medicine.

In a few days they were visited by some very strange guests who had come on a long journey, strange rulers, men of wisdom visiting from eastern regions, far, far away. These were the presents they brought for the baby Jesus: gold; incense and perfume; and, medicine.

Joseph talked with the visitors and they discussed together why they had come, where they had been and what they were going to do. Joseph told them about the baby and how God wanted him to look after Jesus and Mary. The visitors realised King Herod was not to be trusted and that night they left on the road due east, and did not take the one which would bring them back to Herod's palace.

All that day Joseph was worried. Then he had another restless night. He tossed and turned until he had another dream, in which another angel came and calmed his fears. So next morning while they were eating the porridge, which Joseph had prepared, he told his dream to Mary. Together they realised that they would have to become asylum seekers in Egypt. Truly, the last person Herod wanted to see was God's own Son and Herod was well known for the evil he did. He was superstitious and his advisors would tell him about Bethlehem, the City of David. So Joseph and Mary packed up and got on the road but instead of returning to Nazareth, they reckoned that the safest road was the one taking them straight to Jerusalem.

Mary needed rest but what else could they do? On their way south to Egypt, Mary and Joseph first made a detour to the temple in Jerusalem. They brought two turtle doves, the poor person's sin offering, and followed the purification rituals which were the custom of that time when a child was born. They would remember this visit all their lives. A special treat was to meet a couple of God-fearing prophets who knew God's plans for the redemption of His people and who straight away identified the baby boy. Simeon was old and going blind and lived in the temple. Anna, also told them of God's special promises for their baby. Joseph wondered how they knew; maybe it was the same angel who had spoken to him. And Mary also wrote down the songs they composed for the occasion.

Mary needed rest but what else could they do? On their way south to Egypt, Mary and Joseph first made a detour to the temple in Jerusalem. They brought two turtle doves, the poor person's sin offering, and followed the purification rituals which were the custom of that time when a child was born. They would remember this visit all their lives. A special treat was to meet a couple of God-fearing prophets who knew God's plans for the redemption of His people and who straight away identified the baby boy. Simeon was old and going blind and lived in the temple. Anna, also told them of God's special promises for their baby. Joseph wondered how they knew; maybe it was the same angel who had spoken to him. And Mary also wrote down the songs they composed for the occasion.

Here's the song Mary composed when she became pregnant:

My song full of gladness 
Tells how I'm filled with joy 
My baby the Chosen 
God comes as a boy.

My life overflows 
Now, in praise to the Lord
I'm breathless but joyful 
At my Saviour's word.


He's seen where I live 
And knows just who I am 
He's honoured me greatly 
As nurse-maid to His Lamb.


So all will now say 
"What a blessed young maid!" 
The Almighty's great power 
Upon me displayed.


God's holy and merciful 
Year out and year in. 
The humble find mercy 
Forgiveness from sin.


His strength is not troubled 
By the aloof and the loud 
He's put down the mighty
Whose thrones are too proud.


The poor He's placed higher 
The hungered are fed 
The rich are now bankrupt 
Empty-handed instead.


His promise to Israel 
The gift they would need 
To live as His servant 
As Abraham's seed.