The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is a delicious period of anticipation. We look forward to one of the most wonderful times of the year. We expect to be together with people we love. We look forward to time off, time away from the regular schedule. There may be surprises, a gift or two you could not expect. Some people showing up you didn’t think would appear. But there are other thoughts that interrupt our dreams. Many of us are anxious that we haven’t got the right gift for someone we love, perhaps husband or wife, or a child we want to surprise. Maybe we need to cook a special meal and we’re worrying about how it will turn out. Will that one cantankerous person show up and criticize with some snide remarks again? How can I make sure my daughter or son-in-law feels totally loved and appreciated. Maybe I just wish I could skip over to the New Year’s Day, instead.
Joseph was a good and upright man. He was looking forward to a wonderful time in his life. He was engaged to a young woman named Mary. He found himself daydreaming sometimes about the day they would celebrate and consummate their marriage. Then something devastating occurred. Joseph learned that Mary was pregnant. And he knew it was not his baby. She had been gone to visit her relatives Zechariah and Elizabeth, and had returned after some weeks with her belly swelling. It was unmistakable. She had some strange explanation that he could not believe. Joseph’s world was shattered. He had to make other plans. He determined to simply break it off quietly. Try to forget the whole thing, his whole sweet dream. And then something else happened.
In a dream he saw an Angel of the Lord telling him that the child Mary was carrying was way beyond special, the Son of God, the Messiah to be. And Joseph was given a new responsibility. He was to name the child “Jesus” for he would save his people. Alright, so that should settle it. Joseph was a faithful man and he took Mary to be his own. But then, he had to make that unwanted trip to Bethlehem while Mary was so close to giving birth. Joseph is sweating every step of the journey. He is the foster-father of the Messiah, Jesus. Think of all the things that might happen. Anything could go wrong! They got to Bethlehem safely. But there were no rooms available! Mary needs to sleep in a barn? In a cave with straw and a manger for the animals? More anxiety. Joseph, be a man! Take care of your wife! She is going to give birth to the Messiah! These worrisome thoughts echoed through his mind. Somehow they got through those anxious hours and Jesus was born. And then, some unexpected visitors showed up. Those shepherds. They were there to worship and to celebrate the birth. Although they were a little smelly from being out with the sheep so long, they seemed to fit right into the little family bedded down in a stable. Joseph began to relax a little. His faith was reaffirmed by the witness of these strangers. Maybe tomorrow he could go looking for a better place to stay. What a Christmas it was!
Perhaps when we are letting the unfinished preparations for Christmas, or whatever, take away the wonder and the joy of waiting, we need to let God speak peace to us. Let our minds envision an Angel of the Lord giving us good news. Read that Christmas story again by ourself. Don’t wait until Christmas eve. Ponder how God has set the example as the great risk-taker for us. Enjoy the wait and the wonder. Don’t let anxious thoughts take it away. Expect something good is coming. Some person. Some surprise. A gift from God.