Throughout Advent, let’s look at the people of the story of Christ’s birth. Today: James, the brother of Jesus. Here is my take on a possible first person narrative from Matthew 1, Luke 2 and the book of James.
I’ll never forget the story my Mom and Dad used to tell about that night. I wasn’t there. I’m the little brother. So, I have to rely on the memory of others.
My name is Jacob. You know me as James, the brother of Jesus. I called him Yeshua.
Our Dad’s name is also Jacob. But you know him as Joseph. Oh, the stories he would tell about those days. And Mom? Well, as any woman in her final weeks of pregnancy she was, according to Abba, “cranky.” Every little thing was a big thing. “Do you have to hammer so loudly?” she would ask. Dad’s hammering was always the same volume.
It was late in the day when Dad heard the news. Laws are laws. Caesar commanded that everyone return to their hometown to be counted in a census. Since our family is of the Tribe of David, that meant a four day journey to the City of David. A four day trip? With Mom in her condition? My Dad was such a gentleman, but how was he going to do this? Such an excursion with such a pregnant wife! He says he found a couple of extra blankets to put on the back of the donkey. Mom was the adventurous type, but I’m pretty sure this was just one journey she didn’t enjoy. Dad’s plan was to keep a positive outlook saying that they could make the trip as quickly as possible, register for the census and get back to Nazareth in time for the baby to be born… in time for my brother to be born.
Mom says she was very quiet sitting up on the donkey for most of the trip. Dad says he kept thinking about the son inside of Mom, and our family and our family’s future, and what the angel had said in two different conversations to both Mom and Dad.
Then it happened! All of sudden everything changed. Mom started talking and chattering in quick words and phrases. The energy level changed and there was a rush of anticipation. It was time! Can you see them? Not now! Not on the road! Not on a donkey! This is not at all what my Dad had planned!
They got to the town of Bethlehem and there were people everywhere. Not the usual empty, sleepy village. It was night, close to midnight and Mom was holding on to her belly. Dad told Yeshua and me years later that the sounds coming from her mouth rivaled the noise of that old donkey. She needed a place, a bed, a clean room. The baby would be born that night.
So, with great fear Dad tied the mule up by a tree and sat our Mom down on the blankets by the side of the road and he ran off to find an appropriate place. No one would help him out. Everyone was interested, but not a single person would offer assistance.
So he went back to where he had left Mom and the donkey. He helped her back up onto the mule and they began wandering through the tangled streets and alleys of Bethlehem together. Not sure how it happened, but the animal led them to a cave. It was smelly. Wet. Dark. Dank. Not even a nice place for animals. My gracious Mom assured Dad that it would be fine. Dad felt terrible. This is not at all what he had planned. He would tell us years later, “I’m the carpenter, the one who makes solutions, not problems. I earn a living fixing things!” He truly felt like he had let both Mom and my soon-to-be-born big brother down.
Dad laughs about it now, but, the next thing he realized, he was the midwife. Dear Mom led Dad to a place where most husbands never venture. Together they heard the first cries as the baby was born… as Yeshua was born! Dad used his knife and cut the cord and handed the baby up to Mom.
Dad still says that as he watched Mom and Yeshua together, by the light of a single candle, surrounded by animals, that that moment was the most special moment of his life… the moment when his dear bride was the most beautiful.
Mom and Dad had other children after that night. I came along a few years later.
And yes, Yeshua is a special brother to me. While it took me a few years to understand the supernatural part of him — that he is God’s son — he is still my brother.
We grew up together. We played games together. We fished in the Sea together. We helped Dad make furniture as he taught us how to build walls and homes with our hands. I always enjoyed conversation around a meal or a fire with Yeshua. He had a great sense of humor.
He was about as real a friend and brother as you can find.
As a big brother, he was always looking out for me. He was an incredible teacher. He taught me how to find peace in the midst of trials and that Godly wisdom means more than street smarts. He taught me about temptation and how to stay right and strong and pure. He encouraged me to put my faith into action. He cautioned me often about the words I speak, for my tongue seems to get me in trouble regularly. He told me to look for the best in others. And to be willing to admit my faults. And to pray for, and with, each other.
I saw some pretty incredible miracles walking along side Yeshua.
But mostly, I saw the greatest kind of love a brother can offer… unconditional and everlasting love.
Our mutual friend John said it best about him: Greater love has no one than this, than he who lays down his life for his brother.