Matthew 2:14-15 – So he got up and took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt. (NIV)
During December, as I go through the prayer requests, I notice how many of them deal with family breakdown, financial need, confusion, and loneliness. There is a lot of hurting out there, and it all surfaces during this season that is supposed to bring harmony, peace, and joy.
Friend Dorothy and I also struggle with mixed feelings as we put up the manger scene on the top of the television (that's the only suitable spot in our temporary beach cottage). All our hopes and expectations are coloured by Christmases past. Thankfully, the ones we remember are the wonderful Christmases, not the sad ones, but, each year, it's harder to live up to them. My childhood in Bermuda, where my dad was ministering, was limited by the Second World War. I remember the year that the only presents under the tree for my sister and I were two large cribs, obviously the two halves from my brother's crib (he had graduated to a bed by then).
Deprived at Christmas? I didn't feel that way, for there was still my mother in the kitchen basting the turkey, and the wonderful carols, played each hour on our church chimes. Now here we are in Qualicum, and guess what! The town hall clock is playing Christmas carols every fifteen minutes! Wonderful memories come flooding back.
Mary and Joseph must have had mixed feelings as they fled to Egypt, and later, as they tried to return to their homeland. What happened to their expectations? "So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream he went and lived in a town called Nazareth." (Matthew 2:21-23 NIV)
The holy couple's plans were all changed, yet we know now that their rocky journey was put in place by God. Surely, this will be the same for us, too. More than all others, this event, the coming of Christ into our lives, is scripted by God. As we all pray for each other, families will find the grace to sit at table together, finances will fall into place, and friends will call from a distance!
Do we need a warning in our dreams tonight as we plan this and that? Perhaps, for God needs our quietness to reach us. But God will answer our prayers this Christmas, as we reach out in faith and trust, and ask for divine help. The hurting subsides, and doubt changes to an inner calmness. We are touched by a gentle Spirit moving across the waters of life, skimming towards us with peace and joy.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, your coming brings both tears of sadness and tears of joy. Our hearts are fully stretched by our emotions. It's difficult to comprehend why we get so weepy, but our hurts go deep, and so do our joys. May your loving presence heal our hearts, that we may open more fully to your Spirit this year. Bless us, Lord, as we plan, cook, bake, shop, wrap parcels, and send out cards to greet new and old friends. If we are travelling this Christmas, keep us safe on the roads, and bring us safely to the loving homes of family and friends. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.