Anxiety. Sorrow. Uncertainty. These were no doubt the emotions weighing on the mind of Joseph as he navigated the events surrounding the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem of Judaea. An unexpected pregnancy… thoughts of divorce… dire warnings about the cruel vicissitudes of a mad king… mysterious omens from visiting seers… an arduous trek to distant lands, fleeing violence and political unrest.
The Gospel of Matthew certainly paints a darker picture of the first Christmas than we see in the Gospel of Luke. Students in my theology classes often ponder differences in the Gospel accounts and want to know which version is true. Mustering what little wisdom I have to share, I remind them that truth is multi-dimensional. God gave us two eyes—two different perspectives—so that we can perceive depth in reality.
Christmas can be a struggle sometimes, as we perceive the juxtaposition of the joy we’re supposed to feel this time of year against the less-than-perfect feelings we might also experience. Joy. Peace. Anticipation. Anxiety. Sorrow. Uncertainty. Which of these versions of our reality is true?
Throughout Matthew’s infancy narrative, Joseph is guided by a series of reassuring dreams. Do not be afraid… rise up… go. Not knowing how the story would unfold for his Holy Family, Joseph boldly follows the convictions of these dreams, trusting that there is a Big Picture and that he has a place in it.
Amidst whatever joys and struggles you’re experiencing this time of year, my prayer for you and your holy family is that you be encouraged by the conviction of your dreams—and that you know that you have a very special place in God’s Big Picture.
Wishing you a