When Joseph went to Bethlehem
I think he took great care
To place his tools and close his shop
and leave no shavings there
He urged the donkey forward,
then, with Mary on its back,
And carried bread and goat cheese
in a little linen sack
I think there at the busy inn
that he was meek and mild
And awed to be the guardian
of Mary's sacred Child
Perhaps all through the chilly hours
he smoothed the swaddling bands,
And Jesus felt the quiet strength of
Joseph's gentle hands
And close beside the manger bed
he dimmed the lantern's light,
And held the little Jesus close upon
that holy night
Bessie Spencer was a Methodist and a freelance poet and writer. She contributed to many religious and popular magazines and anthologies, and received awards in local and national contests. She affiliated with the Poetry Society of Colorado, the National League of American Pen Women, American Poetry League, and Daughters of American Colonists.
When her poem was originally published in December 1960, the Reed Payne family cut it out of The Children's Friend. Over the years, their children learned to recite it. Eventually, Brother Payne set it to music. He said, "In an hour's time the music was written. The poem seemed to call for a simple, flowing melody to match the beautiful and sacred words of that first Christmas... 'When Joseph Went to Bethlehem' is a song that helps us picture the events surrounding the birth of Jesus more clearly fromt he father's perspective. Joseph was not just an observer or an onlooker, but very involved as a new father and guardian of baby Jesus. We and easily imagine Joseph's practical effort and spiritual awe as he assisted Mary in this most wondrous of all births."
Dr. Reed Payne played for dance bands as a young man, and now taught psychology at Brigham Young University, including a class on the psychology of music. He states, "Music carries the message of song, stirs our feelings, and strengthens our testimony. Music helps us worship with meaning and expression."