First-born Son

From the CLAY “Story” Series

An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:20-21

“Young man, you wait out here.”

“But—”

“Have you ever seen a baby being born?”

“No, but—”

“No ‘buts’.” The woman scurried back through the wooden gate and disappeared into the depths of the torch-lit cave, muttering to herself as she went. “Cows everywhere—shoo!”

The young man stood helplessly outside the animal enclosure, straining to get a glimpse of what was going on inside. He reached to open the gate.

“I wouldn’t go in there if I were you.” The young man hesitated and turned toward the older man sitting on a rock next to a small fire.

“But—”

“Come sit down. Your wife will be fine. Siloa is the best midwife in Bethlehem.”

“I’m certain she is, but—”

“Again with the ‘buts’. Mind your elders.” The older man smiled. “Tell me your name.”

“Joseph.”

“Joseph, my friend, come sit down. I’m Abimael.”

The young man took one more longing look into the cave, turned, and took a seat by the fire.

“I’m sorry—I’m just nervous.”

“Don’t give it another thought. Just be glad Barnabus knew where to find us. He felt bad he didn’t have a room for you at his inn. This little town just isn’t big enough to hold everyone.” He prodded the flaming kindling with a stick. “But being born in a cave surrounded by cows and sheep is definitely a story this little one will tell his or her grandchildren.”

Joseph glanced at the cave opening again. “His grandchildren—it’s a boy.”

Abimael chuckled to himself. “Oh, really! Well, my wife will be the judge of that. Is this your first?”

Joseph hesitated. “Yes. Sort of.” He caught Abimael’s gaze briefly, then looked away. “Actually, it’s complicated.”

“Ah… Then never mind – it’s none of my business.” Abimael absentmindedly poked at the fire with the stick.

“No—it’s OK. I just never know what to say. I wouldn’t mind talking about it.”

Abimael looked sidelong at Joseph. “We may be out here awhile.” Joseph glanced back at the cave opening. Abimael prodded, gently. “So—it’s complicated.”

“Complicated. And miraculous—the situation, the circumstances, the conception – all complicated and miraculous.” Joseph drew his knees up and pulled his cloak around him against the chill. He glanced at Abimael. “Do you believe in miracles?”

“Well, the fact that we get any of them to put up with us long enough to, you know…” Abimael grinned and nudged Joseph. “That’s definitely a miracle, eh?” He laughed. “But you’re a strapping, handsome fellow—I’m sure it didn’t take much coaxing.”

Joseph reddened and gazed into the fire. “I hope not,” he muttered.

Abimael looked inquisitively at Joseph, his face darkening. “Oh. Again—none of my business.”

“No—it’s not what you think. Well, not exactly what you think.”

“What I think is that you’re a bigger man than I am, Joseph. If Siloa had ever even looked at another man, much less…” Abimael glanced at the cave, then back at Joseph. “The law says—”

“The law?” Joseph chuckled. “The law doesn’t really apply in this situation.” He held Abimael’s gaze for a moment. “Again—do you believe in miracles?”

“I believe the Red Sea parted and the walls of Jericho fell; I see children born every day,” replied Abimael. “So, yes—yes, I believe in miracles.”

“Good. Because what happened to Mary—my wife—was a miracle.”

The older man tossed another stick of kindling on the fire. “I’m all ears.”

Joseph sat silently beside the fire for a moment, as if to choose his words carefully. Finally, he sighed, softly.

“Mary is…” He smiled. “…amazing and beautiful; and one of the most virtuous girls I’ve ever known. So when she told me she was pregnant shortly before we were to be married, all I could think was, This can’t be happening—not Mary.

“I thought maybe some man in the village had…” His voice trailed off. “I asked her who had done this to her so we could seek justice. That’s when she told me an amazing story. She said the angel Gabriel came to her and—”

“Gabriel?” Abimael interrupted. “The angel who appeared to Daniel?”

“Yes. Much different news this time, but, yes—Gabriel. She said he told her she had found favor with God and, even though she was a virgin, would give birth to a Son; God’s Son.

“I love her with all my heart, but—giving birth to God’s own Son? How could I believe that? It was too far-fetched. I couldn’t go through with it.

“I would never hurt her so I decided I would just divorce her, quietly. I had to follow the law—or so I thought.” Joseph paused. “Then I had a dream.”

“About what?”

“An angel. He told me everything was fine; not to be afraid. He said the baby was from the Holy Spirit. When I woke up, I did what he said—I married her. And here we are, a long way from home, neither of us having been intimate with each other or anyone else, about to have a son.”

Abimael stared at the fire as though deep in thought. “Isaiah,” he said softly.

“What?”

“Isaiah. He prophesied, ‘The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.’”

“Immanuel—God is with us,” said Joseph.

Abimael looked at the young man, his face glowing. “Joseph…”

“I know,” said Joseph, smiling. “The son of the living God—the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—is about to be mine to…” His smile faded. “To what? Raise? Protect? Teach? I have no idea. Like I said—it’s complicated.”

And miraculous,” said Abimael.

“Yes; that, too. But why now? Why here? The Son of God should be born in a palace to a king—not to me; not like this.”

“‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please’,” replied Abimael.

“Isaiah again?”

“Yes. You may not know God’s purpose, Joseph, but you must never doubt that He has one.”

“I need to pay more attention in synagogue.”

“It’s amazing what you’ll learn,” Abimael replied, smiling. “You may even learn how to raise this new son of yours.”

“Mine?” said Joseph. “Or God’s? What does Isaiah say about that?”

“Surprisingly, he didn’t mention you. But God chose you for a reason, Joseph.”

“‘I will do all that I please’?” said Joseph.

“You learn fast—you’ll be a great father.”

“Young man—Joseph?” Abimael’s wife called out from the gate at the mouth of the cave.

“Siloa, my beloved.” Abimael stood up. “I’m guessing Joseph and Mary have a new son?”

She put her hands on her hips and looked askance at him. “You had a one in two chance of getting it right, but yes—good guess.”

Abimael looked at Joseph and winked. “Hardly. You better go meet your new son.” He held out a hand to help the young man up. “By the way—what will you name him?”

“Jesus—his name is Jesus.”

“That means ‘Deliverer’.”

“And ‘Savior’.” Joseph nodded toward the cave. “Something tells me it’s going to get more complicated.”

And more miraculous,” Abimael replied. “Remember, Joseph—God has a purpose in all this.”

“You’re right—all of it.” Joseph smiled and squeezed Abimael’s hand. “Even this evening by the fire. Thank you.” He turned and hurried past Siloa into the cave.

Abimael sat back down by the fire. “Even this evening by the fire…”

She brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger… Matthew 2:7

© 2013 Dusty Teague


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7 thoughts on “First-born Son

  1. Dusty, you are so talented and share your gifts so generously! I am enjoying getting to know you through your writings. Looking forward to your new book!

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