I am the handmaiden of the Lord.

The latest (Christmas-themed) novel by Elizabeth Berg, The Handmaid and the Carpenter, caught my eye when it came into the library. It’s pretty short, so I read most of it in the doctor’s waiting room yesterday (I didn’t wait very long, don’t worry), and I have to say that I enjoyed it.

In thinking about what I might say about this book, I went back and looked at this entry on Joseph that I wrote two years ago after seeing Andrew Peterson’s Christmas show. (I was disappointed to see I’d already used the title I had in mind for today. I guess we need more songs about Joseph for me to use as post titles.) It touched on many of the things the book explored – the kind of man Joseph must have been to marry Mary even when he didn’t have to, the kind of man God would have chosen to be Jesus’ earthly father. In this book, Joseph struggled with belief after Jesus’ birth, after the angels came to him in dreams, even after the wise men and shepherds came to pay tribute. Without giving too much away, I think I can say that Joseph struggled with believing Mary right up until the very end of the book, but then, finally, he was given the grace to believe. I really enjoyed the way it was handled.

I generally enjoy stories that flesh out Biblical characters, and this one was better than the other Mary and Joseph book I read several years ago, Two from Galilee. The Handmaiden and the Carpenter fit in with the theme of the past week, songs and stories about the people in the Bible and what it must have been like for them to be part of this miracle. It’s good to remember that these people were real, more than just the figurines that sit on top of my card catalog.

I think that I try too hard at Christmas to be in the spirit and to enjoy the season. I have to confess that I don’t really know what that looks like this year, so I’ve been back and forth between crying while making Christmas cookies and having a great time with my friends in Nashville. Maybe that’s normal. But reading this book reminded me of what I’ve been saying to myself all year, “Do the best you can with what you’ve been given.” God supplies grace enough for the rest.

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