A few years ago when I was updating my Advent and Christmas music collection I discovered a carol I had never heard before. It struck me from the first hearing because it features Joseph prominently, and Joseph doesn’t get a lot of play time in Christmas carols.
“The Cherry Tree Carol” is a folk carol with a murky history, as it goes with folk carols. Some date it back to the 15th century, but others claim it’s from the 18th. The roots of the story in the carol are actually more ancient than any of this, though, coming from the first few centuries of the church’s existence, from a gospel account that is not contained in our Scriptures. In the carol Mary and Joseph are traveling to Bethlehem where she will eventually deliver her child. Along the way the expectant mother Mary is hungry and asks Joseph to stop and get her a cherry from an orchard they are passing, for the baby. Joseph snaps back bitterly, telling her to let the child’s father get him a cherry to eat. Continue reading