x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

A German tweeter tells Christmas story from Joseph's point of view

'Nazareth carpenter' informs followers he is concerned about his wife's pregnancy.

BERLIN // Joseph of Nazareth is under a lot of stress, unsurprisingly. His wife, the Virgin Mary, has suddenly announced that she is pregnant. It's not his child, and she doesn't know how it happened, she says.

So the carpenter has decided to let off steam via Twitter in a gently amusing take on the Christmas story that is attracting thousands of followers in Germany, and will predictably run until December 24.

"Of course I'd noticed that Mary had been getting fuller around the hips. But I thought it would be a dumb idea to tell her that," writes Joseph, an anonymous tweeter under the username Joseph_von_naza.

"She says she has known for three months. She was six months pregnant at the time. She didn't know how to tell me. What do I do now?" he tweets. "This is a shock for me. Of course I wanted children. But my own. Trying to distract myself by working."

His profile portrait is a digitally manipulated image showing a smiling, bearded man in a green polo neck jumper.

All he says about himself is that he is "Joseph of Nazareth, 35 years old and married. Run a small third-generation carpentry business in the centre of Nazareth."

He has already gained more than 9,000 followers on Twitter. "So many followers," he writes. "Usually not even my donkey follows me when I call him." He seizes on his growing fame to try to drum up some business. "Do you need carpentry work done in or around Nazareth? Then I'm your man!"

He started his tweets on December 1 admitting that he was a novice regarding technology and that his wife had put him up to it. "Mary says this is how things are done these days," he wrote.

Joseph's writings made the front page of Die Welt, one of Germany's leading newspapers, last week and its journalists contacted the tweeter, a Protestant Christian who wants to remain anonymous.

"We've heard the Christmas story a thousand times but no one has devoted much thought about what it's like for Joseph," he told the newspaper.

After much soul-searching about the prospects for his marriage, he announced last Thursday to his relieved readers: "Have decided to stay with Mary! Because I trust her when she says she can't explain how it happened."

Joseph's tongue-in-cheek tweets so far have been so innocuous that there have been no complaints from church leaders. In fact, Catholic and Protestant news services in Germany have written lengthy news articles about him.

Joseph isn't the only biblical figure that has resorted to social networking this Christmas.

A German Facebook user calling herself "Mary of Nazareth" has also been giving regular updates about her pregnancy, for example complaining about the cost of prams these days.

The woman behind Mary wants to remain anonymous too, and said her "project" was not just intended to entertain but also to interest the web generation in the Christian faith.

"I want to get young, non-religious people to approach the Christmas story in a different way," she told Augsburger Allgemeine, a regional newspaper from Bavaria. "What problems and challenges would Mary and Joseph face today?"

In the meantime, Joseph is hard at work. "Many inns are ordering tables that seat up to 12 people," he tweets, in an apparent reference to the 12 Apostles.

The story goes on, and Joseph's fame is growing. "Maybe he - whoever he is - will post a baby photo on December 25 and set up a profile for the newborn child," Süddeutsche Zeitung wrote this week. "Jesus would be assured of his father's thousands of followers in one go."

dcrossland@thenational.ae