That’s my son, Jesus, out there shooting baskets in the driveway. Good, isn’t he? He’s got a sweet jumpshot.
Actually, Jesus isn’t really my son, but–well, it’s hard to explain. Mary’s the mother, but I’m not the father, and neither is anyone else.
Sounds crazy, huh? That’s what most people say. Can’t say I blame them.
Jesus–he’s a fine kid. Always has been. Does his chores without being told a second time, keeps a clean room, never picks on his younger brothers, and gets superb grades in school. He volunteers to wipe dishes and hoe weeds from the garden. Sometimes I catch him out in my shop sweeping up sawdust.
Jesus never complains about going to church. And you may find this hard to believe, but he hates watching TV. Not even cartoons. He’d rather be outside taking a walk, or maybe memorizing Bible verses (he learned to read at age two!).
I know why he’s such a perfect child. God told me in a dream before Jesus was born. You see, Jesus is the Mes–
Oh, forget it. You wouldn’t believe me.
Then again, maybe you will. It’s worth a try.
I had a crush on Mary ever since kindergarten, though she didn’t pay much attention to me at the time. In high school she was Homecoming Queen, a cheerleader, and class president–with lots of guys chasing her. Me–I was just ordinary Joseph.
Normally, a guy like me wouldn’t stand a chance for someone like Mary. But Mary wasn’t like most popular girls. She didn’t party, never went to dances, and turned down tons of dates with guys she wasn’t sure about morally.
And that’s where I shined. We shared a deep commitment to God, and were leaders in our church youth group. We began talking to each other about our spiritual lives, and that developed into a dating relationship. Then we got engaged, and set the wedding for six months away.
That’s when I had this dream. There was this angel in the dream. “Joseph,” he told me, “Mary is going to give birth to a son.”
“Great!” I answered. I don’t normally have conversations in my dreams, but this time I did.
“That’s the good news,” the angel continued. “The bad news is, she’s pregnant right now.”
“W-w-w-what?” We had kept our relationship pure.
“You heard me, but don’t be worried,” the angel said. “Go ahead with the wedding, because the child is conceived of the Holy Spirit.”
“What do you mean?”
“You’ll find out. Trust me. Everything will be fine. You don’t even have to pick out a name. When your son is born, call him Jesus.”
I woke up in a cold sweat, grateful that it was just a dream. But a couple days later, Mary reluctantly–kind of scared out of her mind, to tell you the truth–broke the news to me:
“Joseph, I’m pregnant.”
It was true after all.
An angel had visited her, too, but in person–no dream. The angel told her the same story, but she didn’t want to mention it to me until she was sure. Well, now she was sure. And within a couple months, the whole town knew it. You can’t hide the obvious.
This, as you can imagine, created quite a scandal. Our parents stood behind us, but hardly anyone else did. Not that I blame them. I sure wouldn’t believe a guy in my situation who said, “We’re clean. God caused the pregnancy.”
I thought about breaking the engagement, but I couldn’t. Mary and I were in this thing together.
Those were difficult months, with people constantly gossiping behind our backs. But we got through it. After the wedding (hardly anyone came), we settled down to married life. Us and Jesus.
I love my son–I really do. He’s not my flesh-and-blood, and things still don’t make a whole lot of sense to me. But I love him. We do a lot of things together–ride bikes, go camping, play table games. We’re very close. I’m trying to be a decent Dad.
Not that Jesus doesn’t have problems. Many people consider him an illegitimate child, and being sensitive, Jesus picks up on their negative vibes. He’s got my flair for carpentry, but he sometimes hammers his thumb just like everyone else. Like other kids, he stubs toes, dislikes lima beans (though he doesn’t complain), and contends daily with some neighborhood bullies (he never fights back–just tries to avoid them). So he’s kind of an ordinary kid.
But he’s not really ordinary. Great things await him in the years ahead. I’m not sure just what, but I know I’ll be amazed if I’m still around.
At the same time, I’m a bit worried. I suspect some rough times lie ahead for him. I’ve felt that for years. So has Mary.
But that’s far down the road. Right now, Jesus is a happy kid, and I’m a happy father. He’s still outside, practicing free throws right now, I see. Once, he sunk ten in a row. Looks like he’s worked up a pretty good sweat.
When he gets tired and comes inside, Mary will have some lemonade waiting for him. He’ll take a shower, and then we’ll all settle in for a quiet evening in the living room–one big happy family. Maybe I’ll challenge him to some Nintendo.
He always wins.
(I wrote this sometime in the 1980s for The United Brethren magazine.)