Excerpted from “Expect Joy”, a musical/dramatic production first premiered at the Christian Reformed Church of Western Springs, IL.
Scene: Joseph’s father and brother Joshua enter stage right and freeze in position. Joseph’s father is at a workshop table (littered with tools, wood; set next to a wooden chair), sanding a block of wood; Joseph’s brother is holding a chuppah (canopy) pole, admiring his handiwork.
Joseph enters from stage left, looking dazed. Joshua notices him and steps quickly over to him, excited to show him his work on the wedding canopy (chuppah).
Joshua: Look, I’ve just completed the first half of your canopy! Dad came up with this great method of hooking the cloth to the top, and I’ve… (somewhat bashful) carved some flowers into it so it’s pretty for the day. Do you like it?
Joseph stares at him; he is somewhere else.
Joshua: (slightly taken aback, but still excited) Um, well, it’s still in process. (looks down slightly, but regains composure) Mom’s going nuts, Joseph. She’s been cleaning like crazy, planning out menus, you know. She’s really happy. (claps him on the back) We all are.
Father: (regally) Weddings are joyful occasions. Remember that, Joshua, not happy – joyful. Nothing so simple as happiness.
Joshua: (looking worriedly at Joseph) Hey. You OK?
Joseph looks around, waking up – Father is wiping his hands with a rag, Joshus looks at him earnestly.
Joseph: (in disbelief) Mary… (looks down and then up at them again) is pregnant.
Father: (dangerously) What did you say?
Joshua: (dumbfounded) But wait a minute, that’s… (trails off…) Is she sure?
Joseph: (dazed, sits on the chair next to the work bench) Yes. She knows. It’s true.
Joshua: A WEEK before your wedding? I mean… (pauses awkwardly, stumbles) Weh.. well, what did she say? Did she say… (ends rather lamely) sorry?
(Father stoically silent through all of this)
Joseph: She said… (pauses, as if unsure of sharing it with them) she said…
Joshua gestures as if to prompt him to speak.
Joseph: (impatiently) She said she saw an angel, okay? A messenger of God, saying that this child… this child would be… the Messiah.
Disdain on Father’s face, Joshua is silent, observing Joseph seriously but worriedly.
Joseph: This angel, he… told her the name and everything, told her that (as if remembering exact words) the Holy Spirit would come upon her, and the baby would be the… the Son of God.
Father: (controlling himself) So this is what she said, did she.
Father: And, you believe this?
Joseph: Um. Yes, I do. (Beat; coughs) I, um, had a dream.
Father raises eyebrows. Joshua is calculating what just happened.
Joseph: There was an angel in it. And he told me to take Mary as my wife. He told me to raise this child as my own. He said… that Jesus would save us from our sins.
Joshua: (after a beat or two; almost eager) You saw an angel?
Joseph: I believe so.
Joshua: (wondering) What did it look like?
Father: (interrupting, thunderously) Enough of this nonsense. Joseph, you will divorce her. We will not have a harlot living in our home. Even (in disgust) associated with our family.
Throughout the ensuing dialogue, Joshua stands awkwardly, still holding the tent, watching in anguish.
Joseph: (trying to persuade) Dad, the dream! The angel, he said…
Father: (brushing it aside) Do you seriously believe that story? We all know how this happens. It’s the same thing, time and again – stray from the law in one iota (gestures with thumb and index finger vehemently) and like that (snaps fingers) you’re on the road to disgrace. She will not take us with her in that shame.
Joseph: Dad! You’ve known her all her life – we’ve grown up together!
Father: It goes to show how little we can actually trust an outside appearance of holiness. God desires true purity – purity of the heart, Joseph. Do you want a stained bride? What does Solomon say about the adulteress? Remember your lessons! “Her feet go down to death; (points) her steps lead straight to the grave.”
Joseph: (fighting back) I will not divorce her. I believe that Yahweh has spoken to her, and to me. I believe this child is the Son of God – the Messiah!
Joseph: (confronting his father) No! I will do what the Lord tells me.
Father: (truly angry) You will do what is right! What is lawful! Disown her and leave her to her shame!
Joseph backs up slowly, sits with his back to his father, head in his hands.
Father: (softens somewhat, pleading) Son. I know this is disappointing. There are many other young girls – from good families – that are not (disgusted, can barely say it) pregnant out of wedlock. Listen to me, son. (beat) “A wise son brings joy to his father.” (puts his hand on Joseph’s shoulder) Don’t be foolish.
Joseph: (somewhat defeated) I have to do what the angel said, Dad. I just have to.
Father, as if slapped in the face, stands and looks dumbfounded at Joseph for a moment. He clenches his jaw, angry.
Father: (seething, slowly enunciating) If you will not listen, if you will insist on taking that harlot as your wife, and raising her illegitimate child… directly disobeying your parents and your people’s law, then you shall have nothing to do with this family, Joseph. Nothing! (exits heavily, slams door)
Long silence. Joshua slowly crosses the room, tentatively; sets his hand on Joseph’s shoulder. Joseph is downcast.
Joseph stirs, and looks back slightly, almost irritated.
Joshua: Dad forgets. Yahweh once told Hosea to seek out his (stumbles on the words) adulterous wife.
Joseph shoves his hand off of his shoulder
Joshua (stepping back but defensive): I’m just saying, there’s a precedent! (take time) What if God is using you to tell a larger story to our people, like Hosea? What if you’re meant to show them His love for us, His desire for us to return to Him? What if… you’re paving the way for the Messiah to finally come and redeem us from our enemies?
Joshua: I’m sorry, Joseph. What I mean to say is… I believe you. If you say that God sent you a messenger… I… I believe you. You don’t lie. (Turns to go, pauses)
Joseph looks up, but not at him.
Joshua: Mazel tov, Joseph. A baby, no matter whose, is truly a miracle. And if you say it’s God’s baby… well. Than that IS a reason to celebrate.
Exit. Lights down. Joseph exits.