Christmas celebrations are in full swing here, with lights and decorations and carols in towns and villages, shops and churches.
One nearby congregation has erected a wonderful display outside their church – right on a street corner. Two life-like and nearly life-size figures representing Mary and Joseph sit beside the manger where the newborn Jesus is laid. Lots of people have commented on how attractive it is, and how much they enjoy seeing it every time they pass by. They are grateful to the church for this Christmas scene showing Jesus coming to their town. However, last week, three lads (of whatever age) decided to spoil the display – they took Joseph’s head and used it as a football down the street.
Obviously, the congregation was shocked and disappointed. However, they very quickly began to see meaning in what had happened because it had produced a response. People shared the distress and sent messages of sympathy and hoped the church wouldn’t be put off, but be able to reconstruct it. And there were other messages here too.
The journey of Mary and Joseph from Nazareth to Bethlehem was dangerous. It was a long way on foot. Mary was heavily pregnant. There was nowhere to stay. And before very long, a paranoid and ruthless king would be slaughtering babies like theirs. To escape, they had to flee as refugees to another country. But what struck me about the ‘death’ of Joseph in our local scene was the loneliness of Mary. On her own, with Joseph no longer at her side, she had no protector, no companion on the road. She faced the dangers alone.
She was not the first or last lonely mother. Motherhood has always carried risks, and the dangers for those who face childbirth without support, without medical care and alone, are all the greater.
She was lonely too, because of other circumstances. This child was evidently no ordinary baby, but God’s own Son. She, a young, maybe teenage, first-time mother, had the awesome responsibility of carrying this child, bringing him to birth, feeding, nurturing, caring for him, and in years to come, bearing the indescribable agony of seeing him die by crucifixion. In all the years between, she carried the memory of words spoken over him when a baby – that sorrow, like a sword, would pierce her heart (Luke 2, verse 35).
Christmas is very much a celebration of joy – joy that God has come to earth in Jesus. But there is a cost to Christmas, sometimes even a dark and lonely side. We should certainly remember mothers at such a special time, especially those who face life alone, or on the street, or who are abused or frightened.
As we wish you God’s blessing and joy in your heart and home at Christmas time, we also pray you may have courage and faith for your own living, protection from harm, and good companions on your journey.
Lord Jesus, living Saviour, be the companion of my journey, set me free from loneliness and despair, fill me with hope and confidence that you will still be there throughout the journey, and make me a good companion to others
Written by Rev Malcolm Hanson and submitted by kind permission.