Christmas tension

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.
- Luke 2:1-3

Joseph and Mary went home for Christmas before Christmas even existed. Today’s passage shows them going to Joseph’s “own town.” Maybe he grew up there. Maybe this is where his parents and relatives lived. Maybe this was just his ancestral homeland. Whatever the case, Joseph and Mary experienced holiday displacement.

Going home for the holidays can be difficult. Maybe you’ve experienced this in your own holiday travels or when your children and relatives have come to visit you. Anne Grizzle, an author and spiritual director, says that “We’re tempted to re-play old scripts from the past whenever we’re with our family of origin and this is part of what makes going home grown up so difficult.”

What must it have been like for Joseph to show up in Bethlehem with his all-too pregnant brand new wife? He would have to answer questions. He would get dirty looks. He would be the object and subject of gossip. This was no vacation.

For Mary, she would be meeting many of these people for the first time. This census forced her to show up in an unfamiliar town and depend on the hospitality of relative strangers. Women she’d only just met would be helping her give birth to her first child. What a vulnerable experience!

How do the holidays stir up tension and vulnerability for you? How does the Lord meet you in the midst of that tension and displacement?

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