The Nativity story always centers on the infant Jesus in the manger, or on adoring Mary. Or the shepherds. Or the angels. Or even the animals gathered in the stable. But there is one figure who is always passed over – the guy standing in back corner looking on: Joseph, the anxious father. He is part of the story, however. So this is the tale from Joseph’s point of view.
When the story reaches Bethlehem, it takes a different turn than the version you are used to seeing As Bible scholar Ken Bailey points out, our familiar version of the story really reflects how the Nativity would have played out in the England of the King James Bible, where travelers and beggars were viewed with suspicion and disdain, and middle class people thought of animals and stables as low class and dirty. But in first century Judea, where hospitality was an important virtue and Joseph was traveling back to his home town, (and inns were unknown,) the story would have played out more like this.
People sometimes ask me why the chief shepherd seems to be Irish. The truth is, I don’t know. But every time I tell the story, when Joseph and Jacob open that door, there is this little old Irish man standing outside, holding his tweed cap in his hands and rattling on about his beans. He is not historically accurate, but he insists on being there.