Wednesday, December 21, 2016
The Discombobulation of Mary and Joseph
A DISCOMBOBULATED CHRISTMAS
How are your plans for Christmas going? Those of you who might be newly divorced or separated may find that the plans are very difficult as emotions swirl, schedules become awkward and times of loneliness and loss come to the fore.
Perhaps you can relate to the notion of a “discombobulated” Christmas. Though almost 20 years out of divorce myself, Christmas remains one of those holidays regularly impacted by the fallout of divorce as even grown children have to make choices regarding their schedule and plans that would have not been an issue apart from divorce. Yet life goes on, and there develops a new normalcy.
But life gets discombobulated for other reasons, as well.
For me, this year, Christmas will be very different.
I very recently took on a new pastorate in another state, which will result in making a move of our entire household. Our situation is such that the move will be in stages, and include some time with my wife and I not always in the same place. I am celebrating Christmas and Christmas Eve with a new congregation, and we are sharing with one another our traditions and celebrations, some the same, some different. Most of our Christmas decorations were moved to a new house, but mainly in time for a chilly reception as the polar winds dipped down and dropped temperatures throughout the Midwest and announced that the decorations may be best inside their storage containers this year.
With some things here, some things there, and other things yet to be located, we are experiencing some discombobulation ourselves. In addition, as we celebrate Christmas in a new location, our participation in family Christmas is going to be in one of the kid’s home this year located halfway between our new and old homes, while we are in transit from one to the other. Discombobulated.
But you know what? I was reading through the Christmas story again in preparation for our worship services, and somehow, I think that was a fairly discombobulated time for Mary and Joseph as well! My discombobulation may be more akin to Joseph and Mary’s experience of Christmas than the best laid plans and celebrations that are normally the makeup of our traditions.
At least our move was because of choices we made, they had to leave because of an imperial order! It seems likely to me that they had family and possessions scattered in Nazareth, Bethlehem and who knows where else that first Christmas. They didn’t even celebrate Jesus’ birth in a home at all. In fact, as I was reading G. Campbell Morgan the other day, he pointed out that even the word “inn” from the story doesn’t refer to an inn as we might think of it, but was more of a walled enclosure in a field where people could bring their cattle for protection at night. No host, no restaurant, no cozy bedroom, just some open space with perhaps a few spaces of shelter for people inside. Mary and Joseph couldn’t even get a place there! And then, later on, after the wise men came, they had to abandon home again and escape to Egypt in fear for the life of the new baby.
And yet, in what may have been the most discombobulated time of Mary and Joseph’s lives, God was working the most incredible plan of history, working in ways they would never have imagined. This Christmas, what in your life, feels discombobulated to you. What things just don’t seem on track, or where do you just feel out of sorts? I invite you to consider that it might be a Mary and Joseph moment for you, that God has a plan he is working through your time of discombobulation, even if it doesn’t feel like there is much of a plan. Just as in the moment of creation, God brought order out of chaos, so God will bring meaning and purpose out of the most discombobulated times of our lives when we submit our will and our ways to him.
And you know what? Christmas is the perfect time to do just that! Offer God the discombobulated areas of your life, and invite him to use them for something wonderful. It just might be the best Christmas present of all!.