An anonymous German recently took on the identity of Joseph of Nazareth, setting up a Twitter account in his name. It seems that the micro-blogger's intention is to provide a light-hearted commentary on the Christmas story from St Joseph's perspective. Although Joseph von Nazareth (to give him his German name) only began using Twitter on 1 December, he has already gained around 9,500 followers and has published over 90 tweets. In fact, his tweets have become so popular that he has even started tweeting in English as well as German!
According Joseph von Nazareth's profile, the anonymous twitterer appears concerned that although most people "have heard the [Christmas] story a thousand times, nobody has ever thought about how Joseph felt about the whole thing." It might be true to say that we can sometimes forget about St Joseph's role in the gospels, but it isn't really correct to say that nobody considers him - many of us have a great devotion to our Lord's foster father. Having said that, I am sure that most of us can understand the German micro-blogger's desire to explore afresh how Joseph might have felt about the events surrounding the Nativity.
These tweets might prove controversial for some, although they do remain tame on the whole - even if they sometimes appear to be too humorous at times. The interesting thing about Joseph von Nazareth's tweets, though, is that they attempt to give a modern male's perspective on the events that led to the Nativity. In that sense, this person's micro-blog might open up the Christmas story to a large section of the population - ordinary young men - who might not have been able to personally connect to it so far.
After finding out that Mary is pregnant, Joseph von Nazareth wrote: "Did not sleep a wink the whole night. I am seriously considering whether I should leave Mary." He even asked his male readers whether they had ever experienced a similar situation, namely: "A girlfriend pregnant by another." Other tweets reveal a sensitive man, deeply in love with Mary - whom he remains devoted to throughout, even after discovering that she was expecting a child that was not his. Before the shock revelation, Joseph is concerned by the fact that she is "a little down" and "stressed and tired". Needless to say, Mary's pregnancy comes as a shock to Joseph, although there is some relief as it helps him to understand why his beloved has been so anxious and tired of late.
Joseph Von Nazareth also writes from the perspective of a down to earth Jewish man, and his tweets from last Friday referred to how he would not be writing until Sunday as he had to keep the Sabbath. He is also a man who knows the stress of having to find work, asking in one tweet: "Do you have any carpenter's work in Jerusalem? If so, I'm the man for the job," adding: "Please note, that currently, I can only take orders in Nazareth and the surrounding area." The idea of having to travel all the way to Bethlehem for a census has also caused some worry for the 35-year-old Joseph, though he claimed that Mary convinced him that they needed to go, saying: "We are a family now, and all should know, even the Romans." Joseph von Nazareth, like the real St Joseph, seems to respect his betrothed's advice - agreeing with her that they should go to Bethlehem. In fact, the Joseph impersonator also claims that it was Mary who suggested he used Twitter to record his thoughts, telling him: "That's what people do nowadays"!
Written from the perspective of a modern man confronted with the unexpected stresses of life, the demands of the state and relationship worries, Joseph's von Nazareth's tweets are an interesting take on the Christmas story. I am sure that whoever opened this Twitter account never expected it to become so popular. It seems, though, that there's a hunger out there for the greatest story ever told - retold in a format familiar to the online generation. We can all connect to the events surrounding that first Christmas in some way or another - be it from the perspective of the expectant mother, the loving couple, the worried husband, the stressed worker or the overburdened citizen. In that sense, having someone highlight some of the ups and downs that Joseph must have felt could be a good thing - even a tool of the new evangelisation. Yet again, it could be something counter-productive to the Christian faith - too irreverent and prone to fantasy. What do you think?
To follow Joseph von Nazareth, please visit: Joseph_von_Naza
Spero columnist Dylan Parry writes from the United Kingdom. See ReluctantSinner.