CARROLLTON — The robed figure stepped down from the altar in front of the congregation, eager to tell his story.
"I am Joseph, the son of Jacob from the village of Nazareth," he began. "I am a descendant of King David in the tribe of Judah."
The story continued as Pastor Earl E. Mills described Joseph's love for Mary and the thoughts and feelings he had as Jesus was born and grew into a young man.
"She was beautiful and fair and everyone said we would be a perfect match," he said. "I loved her."
The presentation Sunday was the third time Mills had portrayed a biblical character for his congregation at the Carrollton Church of God. Last year, he presented the Christmas story through Isaiah's eyes, and he has portrayed the Roman soldier who stood by Jesus' cross during the crucifixion.
"I really felt that Joseph had the most emotions at thetime, other than Mary," Mills said. "Of course, it's easier for me to portray a man rather than a woman."
Mills said he started his miniplays to help his congregation understand the biblical stories better.
"This brings out the story in a little different way," he said. "The parishioners relate to it a little more than a sermon."
Among the things Mills discussed in his sermon was the confusion Joseph felt when Mary told him she was pregnant with the son of God.
"I had been taught in the synagogue about the Messiah, and I knew that God had worked through our forefathers," Mills said as Joseph. "But I had never seen a miracle before. I wanted to believe, but I couldn't."
The sermon continued as Mills described how an angel convinced him that Jesus was the son of God. He went on to talk about how events -- such as the Wise Men's visit and the exclamations of people at Jesus' baptism -- continued to prove his spiritual origin.
Mills alsotouched on Jesus' character as a young man.
"There were parents who would talk about their children and some would use the word perfect," he said. "But mine was. He listened and obeyed and helped me in the carpenter's shop."
And with total parental pride, Mills described how Joseph thought the child looked just like him.
"Even thoughhe wasn't mine, he looked like me," he said. "God even worked that out in his wisdom.
"What a boy. God's only son and he gave him to us to raise."
After the sermon, church members said they had enjoyed the performance.
"I thought it was very good," Ruth Morris said."It brought out just the right points."
Amy Wenderoth, who had viewed the service with her 5-year-old daughter, Lindsey, agreed.
"Acting out the character makes it more realistic," she said. "It adds flavor to his sermon, and he really does it with joy."