Yes, it seems that Mary and Joseph just can’t catch a break. I imagine that Mary must have been quite upset. I can almost hear her crying out to God, “God, how could you?! I have given everything to you. I said, ‘Here I am, a servant of the Lord.’ I’ve risked my relationship with my family and my community, even with Joseph. I took on the shame that went with a hurried marriage, enduring the looks and whispers as I walked by my family and friends. I have carried this baby for nine months. And now you do this? I can’t have my baby in Nazareth? You took that away, too? Why couldn’t you stop the census? Why couldn’t you have made Caesar wait, just two months? Why, God, why?”
Upset though they surely were, Mary and Joseph made the journey back to Bethlehem. It was a journey they did not want to take. This happens sometimes, doesn’t it? We have to undergo these journeys; maybe they’re dangerous, or long, or arduous. Perhaps that journey requires us to move away from family and friends in order to work. Maybe it’s unemployment or foreclosure or bankruptcy. Perhaps we’ve had to watch a family member struggle against an addiction. Maybe it’s a fight against cancer or MS or Alzheimer’s. Or maybe we have had to say farewell to someone we love. We feel like we are doing everything right, but then everything goes wrong as it did for Mary and Joseph.
Like Mary and Joseph, all of us find ourselves forced to take journeys we do not wish to take. These journeys are not prescribed by God, but by life’s circumstances or the will of others. In the midst of them we may be disappointed and wonder if we have been abandoned by God; or maybe we are simply confused about why we’ve had to travel such roads. These are the emotions we feel in such circumstances, and Mary probably felt some of these same emotions on the journey to Bethlehem.
But in spite it of all, in the humble confines of a stable, Mary gives birth to Jesus the Christ. Our Christmas carols sometimes miss the reality of what Mary was experiencing that night. We sing, “All is calm, all is bright.” But it was not like that. It was disappointing and depressing and hard.
God turns suffering into joy
Life can be that way. And the long-awaited Messiah’s birth came in the midst of it all; the messiness and disappointment and pain. It’s the story we find in scriptures over and over again, and the truths I think we find in our own lives; God does not abandon us on these difficult journeys. Even more than that, so often, somehow, God works through them. We look back years later and can see how God took adversity, disappointment, and pain and used these very things to accomplish his purposes, as God certainly worked through Mary and Joseph and their journey to Bethlehem to bring into this world a Savior.
It what ways can you relate with Mary?
How have you seen God seen your suffering into joy?