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Joseph's tale

To hear the story of the nativity in a new way.

by Ronni Lamont

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To hear the story of the nativity in a new way.

Preparation and materials

  • You need to practise reading the story aloud. You might like to project a suitable picture.


Settle the students, then explain that today’s assembly is a story that you are inviting them to listen to.

Joseph’s Tale

I’d always known Mary, since she was born. Her family lived next door to myself and Rachel, and I remember Mary being born herself; the joy she brought to Jacob and Anna after all those years waiting. The faraway look in Mary’s eyes as she dreamed her dreams of the past and the future, but rarely the present. Too heavenly minded to be any earthly use, was how Rachel’s mother described Mary when I told her – but then she would, and I’m running ahead of myself.

Rachel was a good wife, and we had many happy years. You see the boys? Big strapping boys she bore me, and the girls were the same – tough and shrewd, a bit like their mother. Apart from Susanna, the last baby Rachel bore, for Susanna’s birth was her mother’s death. Susanna was small, and delicate, sensitive – not physically, but she was different. It’s as if she knew that the cost of her life was that of her mother …

After I lost Rachel, Mary was often in the house, sorting for me and the children, so it seemed inevitable that I should ask for her to be my wife. She loved the children, and I knew I loved her. Shy and quiet, she would come to life when telling her stories to my brood. ‘More! More!’ Aaron would shout, and she’d laugh and sometimes tell another, sometimes not. For all her quiet, unassuming way, she always had the upper hand. You couldn’t know Mary and not love her – there was no guile or badness about her.

Jacob was delighted when we were betrothed. Mary had been sad after Anna had died, and he was worried about caring for her – and he was showing his age. So we were duly betrothed; and then the trouble started.

I shall never forget her face, as she told me the story – an angel, she said. Special baby, she said. The Messiah.

I won’t tell you what I said as I stormed out to my tools to whittle some wood and decide how to get out of this one. Except – there was a visitor in the shed. A man, who spoke of things I didn’t understand, with an authority I couldn’t question. The baby was special. The baby was …

The baby was due in midwinter. We had to go to Bethlehem to be taxed in midwinter.

For all her dreams, Mary could be very practical. She’d seen enough childbirth to know what was going to happen. We travelled with the swaddling bands and goodness knows what else, all in a little pack. The donkey bore her weight willingly – that donkey adored her, and the boy after he was born. But when we arrived come nightfall, and the pains were upon her, nowhere had any room, despite folk seeing what was happening. All drunk and busy. ‘Go on,’ they said, ‘try next door.’

Thank God for the innkeeper’s wife. She saw and she understood. ‘Quickly,’ she said, ‘round the back – we’ve a lean-to you can bed down in. She needs to get somewhere or that baby’ll come in the street.’

She wasn’t far wrong. The woman assisted Mary at the birth, and within two hours he was born – big, loud and very, very beautiful. But then, all babies are.

She went back to the inn, and came back with some food for us both. The donkey settled down to sleep, and so did we, but then the shepherds arrived.

Shepherds, in Bethlehem. They’d left their flocks on the hillside, said they’d been told to come to Bethlehem to worship a new baby. And there they were. How did they know? Angels, they said.

We stayed on for a couple of months. Mary took a while to recover from the birth, and it was cold for travel so I did some repair work around the town, and we left when she felt better.

I sometimes wonder about that woman. The innkeeper’s wife. I lie here now, at the end of my life, and hope that she was rewarded by the good Lord for the kindness she showed us that night.

Joshua, whom most people call Jesus now, he grew into a dreamer, like his mum. A teller of stories, but a loner. He never married – said it wasn’t for him. He’s a fine carpenter, mind you. I wonder what he’ll do with his life. I know his brothers and sisters love him, as does Mary – for he was her only babe. Despite all our long years together, happy ones too, she never bore another babe. Without that innkeeper’s wife, I wonder if he would have survived – or his mother. Small kindnesses can be large kindnesses – depends on your perspective.

Soon I shall sleep with my Fathers; and Mary and Joshua, and the others, they’ll go on. On into a future that I won’t be part of. I shall watch from the other side, and see what life holds for my Mary and her Jesus.

Time for reflection

Let’s think about all the babies who will be born today, and in particular for babies born to parents who are homeless.

Think too about families who will lose their babies today, through illness, starvation, or through violence.


Lord God,

Lover of the homeless,

Carer for the weak,

Be with all those who need your love and care today.



‘The Virgin Mary had a baby boy’ (Hymns Old and New, 734)

Publication date: December 2008   (Vol.10 No.12)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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