We read the story of the birth of Jesus condensed into a few chapters, but it was several years of perplexing times. It began with unnerving visits from angels and the difficulty of dealing with an unplanned pregnancy scandal. Once the Nazareth gossip mill moved on to other juicy news, the pair faced new challenges.
A government mandate forced Joseph to shut down his business while he and pregnant Mary traveled to Bethlehem. It was likely several years before they returned home, and his family's finances recovered. The trip to Bethlehem must have left them emotionally and physically depleted, as they arrived in a town overflowing with people.
Certainly, in the throes of labor, young Mary wished with all her heart that these circumstances had not separated her from her mother. Nothing felt familiar or safe or comfortable as she laid her newborn son in the scratchy hay of a manger.
The problematic years continued as political strife tore the community apart due to Herod's edict sentencing so many infants to death. It is likely that everyone in the surrounding area knew of someone who had experienced a loss. Yet, thanks to the warning of strange visitors and a message in a dream, Joseph, Mary, and Jesus were safe and creating a new life in Egypt. Mary and Joseph may not have understood all that happened and did not know what lay ahead, but they knew they had Jesus.
The year 2020 has been a hard time for many of us. Some have seen a minor change in work schedules. Others have had lives turned upside-down with school at home, lost income, or separations from loved ones. Too many families have experienced severe illness or death of a loved one. Like Mary and Joseph, we have dug deep into our emotional reserves to steel ourselves for surviving. We wonder months later when the difficult things of this year will end, and we will be able to return to the familiar. We are still in the middle of the story. We may not know when the struggles of this year will end, but we do know we have Jesus.
That baby in the manger becomes the Savior on the cross. This hard time pales in comparison to the sacrifice of Christ. We stand in awe of a God who insists on loving us despite our weaknesses and failures. He loves us enough to send His Son to save and His Spirit to fill our hearts with strength and faith. The peace of this truth far outweighs our current experience. We are loved and loved perfectly.
Our prayers during this hard time are earnest and frequent. We pray for strength and safety and the peace that comes from knowing the end of the story. We long for the day when we can sum up this year in a few chapters of anecdotes, and we can see how God helped us to grow in our faith. We hope for this peace for you and yours, too. Like Mary and Joseph, we do not know how our story will proceed, but we know we have Jesus. God's word is trustworthy and true.
And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. And he said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true.” Revelation 22: 5-6a