It was a typical story of boy meets girl.
The first time he saw her, she was shopping for a headboard at his uncle's antique shop. He remembered thinking she looked way too young to already be out living on her own, but she informed him that she was in fact 21 and had just begun her career as a traveling nurse. Well, he was glad she had ventured into his small town. She felt like a breath of fresh air. He observed her thoughtfully as she examined all of the furniture pieces the store had to offer. He could tell she wasn't finding quite what she was looking for.
"Can I show you something else?" He offered, as she ran a hand over one particular piece of and let out a disappointed sigh.
"Oh, it's okay. These are all really lovely. I'm probably just being too picky." She chuckled softly tucking a strand of blonde hair behind her ear.
"No I don't think so," he tugged at the end of his beard, "I want you to have something you really like. Let me show you something new."
She looked around at the small storefront, "There's more than this?" she asked motioning to the already overcrowded space.
"Well, technically no..." Joe reached back and scratched his head, "but there is a small woodworking shop behind here, and sometimes I, you know, make stuff."
She grinned, "You make stuff huh? Well, lead the way!"
He smiled back at her and quickly motioned to a door in the back of the room. Turning the handle, he opened it and the two young adults stepped outside into the summer sunshine. There standing in front of them was a small makeshift woodworking shop. It wasn't a lot to look at, but several delicately carved pieces sat sheltered inside the messy space. Marie, the girl, quickly walked over to an elegantly carved oak dresser, "you made this?" She breathed in awe.
Joe grinned, blushing a little, "Yes ma'am."
"It's beautiful," she gasped, gently touching the edges, "I'm sure I could never afford this kind of craftsmanship."
"Oh, I don't know about that. I think we could work out a deal." There was a twinkle in his eye.
Before he had a chance to say much more, there was a wail heard from the front of the store, out by the road. Immediately Marie and Joe forgot about the furniture and dashed to the front entrance to see what was going on. There, sprawled out on the sidewalk in front of a telephone pole was a bicycle with a bent wheel and a little boy no more than five or six years old crying and clutching his leg. Instinctively Marie went into nurse mode falling to the little boy's side, she soothed him.
"Hey buddy, can I take a look? It's okay don't worry we are here to help you." She gently cradled him in her arms and carefully examined the injury.
"I- I- I hit the pole." The little guy stammered as Marie brushed some dirt off his knee.
"How inconsiderate of that pole to get in your way!" Joe shook his head, "What is the diagnosis doctor?" Joe teased Marie.
"I think we have a case of a badly scraped knee," Marie declared, "do you have a first aid kit on hand?"
"Yes let me grab it, and it looks like his mother is coming this way as well." Joe motioned to a woman in the distance who was trotting down the sidewalk towards them.
It wasn't long before the patient was cleaned, bandaged up, and safely in the care of his parent. Before collecting the mangled bike, the little boy limped over to Marie and gave her a thankful hug. Joe tried to hide a smile. He was impressed by Marie's kindness and natural ability with children.
"Well," Joe said crossing his arms after they said goodbye to the kid, "I think all that hard work deserves ice cream. What do you say? Wanna go grab some? We can discuss your headboard over a chocolate sundae."
Looking up at him with a smile Marie replied, "Who could ever say no to ice cream?"
That impromptu ice cream date was the first of what would quickly become a blossoming relationship between the talented carpenter and the dedicated nurse. It wasn't hard to spot the attractive couple around town. They were often hand-in-hand window shopping, having picnics in the town square park, or visiting the local library which happened to be Marie's favorite place. She could never leave the establishment without borrowing a couple of new books to read.
Summer turned to fall, and fall quickly turned to winter. As the holiday season approached Joe knew that Marie was the only girl in the world for him. He sneekily began the very important task of engagement ring shopping. He visited the town's only jeweler, determined to find the perfect diamond for his perfect girl. He didn't have a lot of money, but he did the best he could purchasing a simple ring that would compliment Marie's natural beauty and grace. Christmas shoppers couldn't help but stare at the muscular man with wood shavings in his unruly beard who was leaning intently over the display counter clutching dainty rings in his large fingers.
"Would you look at that! Joe's buying a ring!" Mrs. Phillips exclaimed as she trotted past the Jeweler's storefront, her shopping bags in hand.
"Well good grief, Karen! Don't give away the secret!" Her husband huffed coming up behind her with more bags in tow.
Joe took home his precious ring and carved a small box out of pine wood to place it in. On the lid, he carefully chiseled out little flowers and a fancy cursive letter "M" for Marie. He called Mr. Wright, the librarian, and made a special request to rent out the library on Christmas Eve.
"I've never rented out the Library before, especially not on a holiday," Mr. Wright informed him, "but for you and Marie, I am happy to make an exception!"
It wasn't long until the whole little community was bursting with Joe's secret. Christmas Eve finally arrived, and Joe put on his best pair of jeans, a plaid shirt, and his oversized jacket. He scrubbed his hands and face until they were nearly raw. He even took the time to run a comb through his beard. He tried to ignore his shaky breath and sweaty palms as he got into his car and drove to Marie's house. After picking her up, he had a hard time keeping his eyes on the road. She looked dazzling in her red dress with her golden hair pulled up in a simple but gorgeous updo. The radio was playing soft Christmas carols.
"Where are we going? You're so quiet it's making me nervous." she laughed holding his hand. All he did was wink at her.
It wasn't a long drive from Marie's house to the library in the center of town. Imagine Marie's shock as they pulled into the parking lot and found nearly the entire town waiting for them. What looked like thousands of white Christmas lights hung in the trees surrounding the small brick building. People lined the edges of the sidewalk and asphalt holding candles, their smiles illuminated in the soft candlelight.
"Joe!" Marie whispered, "It's so wonderful!"
"I tried not to get the town involved, but they just demanded they be a part of it" Joe joked, parking the car. He jumped out of the passenger seat and quickly got Marie's door. Taking her by the hand he led her to the entrance of the building and the front of the crowd. There in front of all their friends and family, he got down on one knee and revealed the little box he had so lovingly created just for her. Declaring his love for her, he asked that very special four-word question, "Will you marry me?" and of course she said yes. Joe wondered if it was possible to die of happiness. The newly engaged couple and onlookers joyfully entered the library, where they celebrated the future Mr. and Mrs. with gingerbread and hot drinks.
A few days later, before the reality of being engaged had fully settled in, he received a startling text message from Marie. She informed him that she had taken a nursing job in the city where her cousin Liza lived. She stated that she would be gone for 3 months visiting with her cousin and working. She gave him the date she would return. Joe thought it was strange that she was telling him this sudden, important decision over text. He tried to call her phone, but it went straight to voicemail. He drove by her house, but she was already gone.
Those next three months felt to Joe like they would never end. He couldn't ignore the unsettling feeling that was developing in the pit of his stomach. Suddenly he was avoiding people at the supermarket and dodging any questions that came up about Marie or the wedding planning. He tried to act like everything was fine, burying himself in his woodworking projects. Every day he tried to call and text Marie but every day his phone call was unanswered and his text messages were left unread.
Finally, the day came for Marie to return from her trip. Joe tried very hard to contain his excitement, impatience, and also his confusion. Should he go to her house to meet her? Before he could decide, his doorbell rang. He nearly trampled his dog as he dashed to get the door. Throwing it open, he immediately swept his fiancee' up into his arms.
"Marie, I've missed you so much!" He exclaimed gazing down at her and kissing her forehead. Marie looked up at him silently. Her face was pale and her tiny frame was shaking. She was wearing an oversized hoodie that he hadn't ever seen before.
"We need to talk." She said softly, looking down at her feet.
Joe knew those words almost never meant something good. He took a step back as his heart sank to the floor. He motioned for her to come into the living area. He swallowed the lump in his throat. Marie shuffled in, crossing her arms tightly against her chest and leaning against the arm of the couch.
"Do you want to sit down?" Joe stammered the air between them was suddenly tense. He noted that the engagement ring was still on her finger.
Joe blinked as Marie broke the news to him for the first time. The room was silent except for the ticking of a clock in the hallway. He immediately sat down in the armchair across from her.
"What?" he said, his jaw hanging open.
"I'm pregnant." she choked out, followed by a bitter sob. Covering her face with her hands she cried.
Joe didn't know what to say. It seemed impossible. The baby couldn't be his. They had never been intimate together like that. His shock turned to disappointment, then heartbreak, and then rage.
"Who did this to you?" He demanded, "Whose is it? How did this happen? When did this happen? When did you find out?" the questions tumbled out one after the other.
Marie wiped the tears from her eyes with the sleeve of her hoodie, "Joe it isn't like that-"
He put up a hand to stop her. He knew exactly what it was like. She must've felt guilty about it. Why else would she run away to her cousin's house without telling him until she was already gone? Someone had been intimate with Marie... his Marie. Never in a thousand- no, a million years would he have expected this to happen. His mind was racing. He had to come up with a plan to call off the engagement. It was only fair seeing that she hadn't been faithful. Yet how could he do so in a tactful manner? The whole town was rooting for them. The whole town had been at their engagement. Even if she was a cheater he still loved her...he could never let anything harm her... maybe he would be able to break things off in secret. Maybe she could get a nursing job in another town. Despite his shattered heart, he knew he would give his life to protect her and this baby...
This was the beginning of the undeniable love between Jesus's earthly parents. You can read their entire story in the first few chapters of the book of Matthew or Luke.
Joseph, the humble carpenter, trusted in God and in Mary enough to marry and travel with her to Bethlehem after it was revealed to him that she had not been unfaithful to him despite her unexpected pregnancy. Mary was, of course, pregnant via the Holy Spirit. It would be a lot for any man to understand, but by Biblical accounts, Joseph found a way to accept it. The love of Joseph and Mary displays not only deep devotion but also extraordinary courage, In that society, Mary knew the social rejection and the danger to her very life that would result when she accepted God's call to conceive Jesus before she was married. Likewise, though Joseph had the power to save her life by marrying her, he knew that by doing so he also would be socially rejected and scorned. He would be accused of fathering the child out of wedlock and would be held in contempt for so doing. In spite of all of this, their love transcended their fear.