When Joseph Went to Bethlehem

When Joseph Went to Bethlehem

(When you click the link above to listen, look over on the left-hand side and click “words and music” for a better listening experience.)

When Joseph went to Bethlehem
I think he took great care
To place his tools and close his shop
And leave no shavings there.
He urged the donkey forward,
Then, with Mary on its back,
And carried bread and goat cheese
In a little linen sack.

I think there at the busy inn
That he was meek and mild
And awed to be the guardian
Of Mary’s sacred Child.
Perhaps all through the chilly hours
He smoothed the swaddling bands,
And Jesus felt the quiet strength of
Joseph’s gentle hands.

And close beside the manger bed
He dimmed the lantern’s light,
And held the little Jesus close upon
That holy night.

** Yes, I’ve decided that, for this Christmas season, I would highlight some songs that are special to me.  (And yes, they come to me through the LDS music tradition.)


Joseph is an fascinating part of the Christmas story to me.  Here was a young man, deeply in love with his bride-to-be.  Like most men, I’m sure that his mind was consumed with pre-wedding thoughts of providing for his wife.  He was probably a bit overwhelmed with the wedding plans, but I’m sure all was worth it to him, because Mary was going to be his.  They were betrothed, and had pledged to remain pure and worthy of each other.

Then, Joseph finds out that Mary is pregnant.  He had no doubt in his mind that the baby was NOT his.  After all, he and Mary we waiting for marriage — or so he thought.  I can only guess at the thoughts and feelings that must have raced through his mind as he tried to comprehend that Mary could betray him in such a way: how confused he was when all of her words and deeds had told him that she was as committed to him as he was to her.  The pain must have been nearly overwhelming.

And yet, when the angel appears to Joseph, we are told that he was trying to figure out how to end the betrothal with the least amount of embarrassment to Mary as possible. To me, this says volumes about the kind of man Joseph was. He had found a way to put his feelings aside and think of the woman he loved – even when he was convinced that she had betrayed him. What a deep love and forgiving spirit he must have possessed!

The angel told Joseph to go ahead and marry his wife, but to refrain from consummating the marriage until after Jesus was born. He obeyed. I definitely admire the man Joseph must have been, and wish I had more of his qualities.