`What are these tidings when they're at home?' `You are going to have a baby, Mary,' he said

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The Independent Online
This is the season when we receive family newsletters from all round the world telling us what has happened to them in the last year, in remorselessly jolly detail. We may mock, but they do a good job as family bulletins. In fact, imagine how much easier the Christmas story would be to take in, if only the Virgin Mary had had the time to sit down and send everyone a special Christmas newsletter ...

From Joseph and Mary and new baby Jesus

Hello, all, and what a year it's been! Probably the last time you heard from us was when we went off suddenly to Egypt but we're back again now and dying to get back into the daily round. Egypt was one place we never thought we'd get to! I'm not saying it wasn't a nice change to be in Egypt - though we never did get to see the pyramids! - but going all that way with the baby and just a donkey, well, it isn't really my idea of fun. Still, if the alternative is to have your baby taken into so-called "care" by King Herod, what can you do?

I do seem to be rattling on a bit, don't I ? (Incidentally, you may have deduced by now that "I" is Mary and not Joseph! Poor old Joseph has cut his hand in an accident in the carpentry shop and can't write.) It all started this time last year when Joseph and I were just another engaged couple, as I suppose we still are. We were living with my mother's people in Nazareth and I was all alone at home one day, when there was a knock on the door and this enormous man came in. I was a bit scared but he seemed very nice, not a bit like the normal travelling salesman.

"Is the gentleman of the house in?" he said.

"No," I said, "he is round the back working on a pulpit for the Pharisees." I should say that Joseph has been doing very well with his woodwork this year even thought now he is kept busy on new cribs for the baby!

"Good," said the man. "Fear not, for I have come to talk to you, O Mary, and I bring you good tidings."

"Get away!" I said, even though he spoke so posh, because you have to deal with these people sharpish. "What are these tidings when they are at home?"

"You are going to have a baby, Mary," he said.

"Don't come near me!" I said, at which he smiled in a funny sort of way and said, "And it will be the son of God," and then he sort of vanished. Well, I told Joseph about this later, and we laughed and laughed about it, but then I was talking to my cousin Elizabeth ( she has probably mentioned this in her annual newsletter) and she had been approached by the same visitor who had told her that she was going to get pregnant too, and she did, even though she was miles too old to have a baby! So when I found I was going to have a baby, it all fitted together in a crazy sort of way, and anyway Joseph was too busy to be jealous because then we suddenly had to all go off to Bethlehem for this tax business, which I didn't understand myself however often Joseph explained it.

I wanted to stay with his folks while we were there but he said it would be difficult to explain to them why I was eight months pregnant and us not married, and he would prefer it if we stayed in the inn. Of course, the inevitable happened and there was no room in the blasted inn, so we had to have the baby in the stable, with all the horrible oxen and asses spreading their germs all over the place. I have never been so humiliated in my life (not till we had to leave at short notice for Egypt!) but things got a bit better when three charity workers or something like that called in with presents for the baby, and we were able to spend some gold on better quarters - but really!

He is a very good baby and has never cried once, which is a bit worrying, I suppose, but he smiles so nicely you can't get cross with him. All sorts of people come to see him, so I suppose he really is special, but your own baby always is special anyway, so it makes no difference to me. He doesn't look a lot like Joseph, and I have no idea if he looks like God, but he is my baby and that is the main thing. He was already talking at six months, and the first thing he said was not "Mummy" or "Daddy", but "There are many rooms in my father's mansion", or something like that. Wasn't that odd! I wonder what it meant?

Anyway, see you all soon! Joseph says "Hello!" and Baby Jesus says "Blessed are the meek." Bye for now!