Along with the Old Testament pseduepigraphal "Ethiopic Apocalypse of James" and the New Testament's "Gospel of Pilate" the Protoevangelium is one of my favorite "alternative histories." For more, visit Just Your Average Catholic Guy but here's a tasty tidbit of what you'll find to whet your appetite:
The Protoevangelium of James begins with Joachim making an offering at the Temple, where he is turned away for the "sin" of not having children. Distraught, he goes to the "registers of the twelve tribes of the people" to see if he alone "have not made seed in Israel". Unfortunately for him, he finds that he is (ouch!) and grief-stricken retires to the desert to fast and pray to God. His wife, Anna, "mourned in two mournings and lamented in two lamentations, saying: I shall bewail my widowhood; I shall bewail my childlessness". She cried out to God and then an angel of the Lord appeared to her, telling her, "Anna, Anna, the Lord hath heard thy prayer, and thou shalt conceive, and shall bring forth; and thy seed shall be spoken of in all the world". Anna was of course thrilled and made a vow to God that whether the child is a boy or a girl it would be dedicated to his service "all the days of its life". Now two angels appear to Anna to tell her that Joachim has also received the good news, prepared an offering for God, and is returning to be with her. Anna runs to meet Joachim and embraces him, crying out, "Now I know that the Lord God hath blessed me exceedingly; for, behold the widow no longer a widow, and I the childless shall conceive" So Joachim now "rested the first day in his house" and there was joy in Mudville.