Joseph paced across the floor, stirring the sawdust and getting ever more irate. He stopped and tried again to carve the toy, but the knife slipped and his hand bled as he threw the wood to the floor.
“I just don’t understand. Why can’t you come with us?”
Gabriel stood calmly in the door, his wings folded into the small space. He waited for Joseph’s fury to pass, then went to his side.
“Do you remember the first time we met?” Gabriel asked.
“Well I’m not likely to forget, am I?”
“You were pretty angry then too.”
“With every right! Mary — pregnant. And she could give no explanation but that an angel came. That God had chosen her. On and on she went: ‘He was lovely, Joseph. So gentle, Joseph. My world filled with light, and his wing brushed my face, and I knew what I must do.’ Gentle, my foot. You came in here blazing. More furious than I was.”
Gabriel shrugged. “I needed to get your attention. I seem to remember it took three minutes for you to listen — for you to stop throwing things at me.”
Joseph began to protest — but then he could picture a block of wood shattering into shavings as it hit the angel’s wing. He laughed at the memory of it. Joseph laughed until he cried.
Gabriel brought out things in him that others didn’t see.
After a few minutes, he calmed down.
“All right. I grant: I was in a bad mood that day.”
Gabriel smiled. “You were. But that’s the point. We can stand here like this because you are not afraid of me. I have been able to come to you, to be with you during Mary’s pregnancy because you know who I am, and you are not afraid.”
“No. It was good to finally meet someone more angry than I was. More sure he was right, too.” Gabriel bowed in acknowledgement.
“So, why can’t you come?”
“Because most people don’t warm to angels who blaze in fury. My presence will not make your journey easier.”
“Couldn’t you come as you do to Mary?” Joseph said, cajolingly, “all gentleness and light?”
Now it was Gabriel’s turn to laugh. “For Mary, yes. For Sophia, if need be. But when you are on the road to Bethlehem and people push you and gossip about you, deride Mary and block the door– can you imagine me being gentle then?” Gabriel’s wings shuddered.
Joseph nodded. He could see that Gabriel might not be a helpful travelling companion on this particular journey
“So, we have to go alone?”
“Yes. You have to go alone. I know it doesn’t seem to make sense, but it has to happen this way. Your risk must echo God’s own.”
“But you say an other angel will appear — when he comes?”
“Yes — the child will never be alone.”
Joseph looked relieved and picked up the almost-finished toy.
“So, Mary gets a gentle angel, Jesus gets a faithful one, and I get you?”
“Yes, that’s right. You get me.”
Gabriel and Joseph eyed each other, and then took hands.
They knew they deserved each other, really, and were glad to meet their match.