Luke 2:4,5 – So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him, and was expecting a child. (NIV)
Transitions can be difficult, as anyone who has recently moved can attest. It's a time of rapid change, all faced while tired from packing. Feelings of dislocation, loss, and confusion abound in the heart. Where do we find a doctor taking on new patients? There are new possibilities ahead, a new worship community, new friends to meet, new cupboards to clean and fill. Where did we put that? Transitions throughout life have their challenges, and, as a senior, I have been in a big one these last few months — moving to Vancouver Island.
Giving birth for the first time is also a transition — from youth to motherhood. Mary, heavy with child, must have felt what we feel. There is tremendous excitement with new things, but fears are also sure to rise in the face of the unknown. Mary experienced a slow, bumpy, donkey ride, and a new, strange town where Joseph had roots, but, evidently, no welcoming cousins! There were new friends popping in to see the baby, as Mary rose to greet them from a straw bed. Humble, strange, new — all a difficult transition at a very emotional, yet fulfilling time. This was Mary's first child, a child of her youth and inexperience. We feel for her.
On our latest trip to Mexico, I met another mother-to-be. Beth and her husband had gladly answered God's call to move to Mexico and be house parents for a group of boys at an orphanage near Alamos. The decision was made; they were really going! Then Beth heard she was pregnant.
After journeying to a new land, meeting new friends, taking on several young boys to love, and consulting with several doctors, she learned that the baby was in danger — a slow heart beat. What to do? It was a difficult birth, far from home, but friends came bearing gifts — enough money to pay for a specialist. God was there in that humble Mexican home, the worshipping community gathered round, and the cupboards were full, as was my heart, as I sat there and listened to Beth. She calls her baby her "little stone of remembrance".
Do you remember how God brought you through that last painful transition, or are you today praying that God will guide you through this present one? Transitions are a time for growth in faith, as we discover how God truly guides us through, protecting us from fear and loss, and sharing abundant provision. Our planning is necessary, but let's leave room today for God to act. Christ's love surrounds every baby's birth, in the homes of both poverty and wealth. And, in our hearts, his birth is enthroned by God's love — all are God's humble stable far from home.
Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, son of Mary, be near us, please. We look forward to this day as it unfolds, blessed by your loving presence. Draw near to those who are far from home, lonely, or confused. Show all of us the way to go on. Loving God, draw near, and empower us, when we fear the unknown, or have something difficult to do. May this day draw us out of self towards you, as your presence, first offered in a stable, moves right into our hearts. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.