Normally, Christmas is a family event. Brothers, sisters, parents and children go to great expense to see each other. They drive hundreds of miles, fly across the continent or around the world to celebrate the holidays together. But, for many families, like ours, not this year. We have postponed our family gathering until later, when the vaccine has taken effect and it is safer.
Nevertheless, our tree is decorated with ornaments created by little hands that grew into manhood and womanhood. Decorations, unboxed from Christmases past, remind us of those we love as we look to a brighter future.
That first Christmas was a family event with its own difficulties. When we rehearse the Christmas story, we conjure up images of Joseph trudging along the Jordan valley leading a donkey with Mary balanced on its back, almost full-term in her pregnancy. A look of admiration and love must have played upon Joseph’s face, mixed with worry.
Faith, above all, propelled them in their journey in circumstances not of their choosing. They were on the road at this most inconvenient and vulnerable time because Caesar required it. They were making the arduous journey to Bethlehem so Joseph could enroll for the Roman tax. Even young couples about to deliver a baby were not excused.
They did not know the future. They believed God was in it, but they had no way of knowing where they would sleep, or how they would make their way after the child was born. Like all fathers, Joseph was concerned about how he would care for his wife and child. Mary’s thoughts were about the baby that kicked within her.
Joseph’s fears would have been multiplied if he had known, while trudging along the stony path, that there would be no place for them to stay, that the child would be born in a common stable. A trough for the animas would serve for a crib. As far as we know, they were alone. But his faith in God sustained him. His hope for the future lifted his face.
Christmas is like that for us today. We are all on a journey. Some are more difficult and precarious than others. Our minds are filled with hopes, dreams, anxiety, worry and faith. Some have been laid off and are searching for a job. Some are starting their careers, uncertain about what the future might hold. Some have suffered tragedy, pain and loss. Some are battling illness. Some are celebrating a new birth.
When God sent His Son, He blessed our human experience. He entered into our journey. When He sent Jesus, he identified with our weaknesses, our fears, our hopes, our dreams and our faith. He blessed us as families: mothers and fathers loving one another, finding our way, caring for children in challenging circumstances and believing that, somehow, God is in it all. He will never leave us nor forsake us. He will accomplish His purposes on the earth.