The lives and times of Mary and Joseph with baby Jesus are not so different from our lives today. Life can be rather complicated. It's hard to make plans daily we listen to the news just to learn what we need to know for tomorrow.
Mary and Joseph were traveling because of new government legislation, the census. In their day this was a form of social uprooting as they traveled to Bethlehem.
In the midst of stress and anxiety touches of grace trumped the downside to be what is remembered, the companionship between Mary and Joseph, their mutual caring thoughts of a baby coming soon, and then of gently wrapping the baby in cloths and tenderly placing him in the manger.
Such moment's witness of a timeless God, of eternal truths, for this same caress of Mary, this same over-watch of Joseph is what caressed you and watched over you upon your birth in your day.
We too ponder what it was like then, and how it is now. In some ways, strange as it is, the pandemic returns us closer to the time of Jesus living in day to day uncertainty, monitoring news, making the best of it, as best you can.
This is often beyond understanding, hoping, trusting that a higher power has watch over you.
Judy, one of our dear friends, wrote in her card, "In finding a Christmas card with a message I had to choose hope, as that is what I have held onto for dear life this year." The word hope was boldly printed across the face of her card.
Hope what is the power of hope? What is the source of hope?
What role does wisdom and caution have in each of these words? Like hope, what is the source of wisdom?
In the crowds we watch people journey, some with abandon, apparent disregard, and see others journey with safeguards in place. If we watch long enough, carefully enough, we might discover another universal, that underlying the journey all of us feel the same way; we see change; we see our world in disarray; we see economies and lives disrupted.
Increasingly that which we pushed away intrudes upon us, and increasingly we see sickness and even death.
Holy words are in our story too words like "be not afraid," "I am with you always," and "I bring you good news" news of hope in Bethlehem's baby Jesus.
This hope is the nature of hope in every baby, but significantly in Jesus, the hope of a baby born savior, king of kings, light of the world, prince of peace, life everlasting.
So in this day I choose hope over anxiety; I choose hope in the midst of broken calendars; I choose hope over sickness of every kind; and I choose hope over disappointments of every kind.
I see hope in the understandings of children; I see hope in the faithfulness of beloved pets; I find hope in the steadfastness of friends and hope in every card received and read, written and sent.
And I choose to write this message to you because of my savior, Jesus the Christ him I proclaim. This hope rescues our hearts, and is soothing to troubled thoughts.
Are we today not as the shepherds from the fields nearby? We are the good folk from the homes nearby.
The shepherds came, they found, they looked upon, and adored and then went, transformed, excited to tell all about this child.
Like ripples in the pond, those next to hear were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen which were just as they had been told.
We, today's new shepherds, still tell the story. Know this story of hope, and hold fast to hope as we move forward into this new year.n
Rev. John Flower, pastor of First United Methodist Church of Clarion.