Through the ages journeys of one sort or another have played a role in the history of humankind. Old Testament journeys are perhaps the most familiar to us: Noah's descendants migrate from Mount Ararat to Babel. Abraham travels from Ur to the land of Canaan. Moses flees Midian; his successor, Joshua, leads the Israelites to the Promised Land. Examples of such journeys are numerous: Jacob, Saul, David—and it is from the House of David that Jesus is born.
For us, as Catholics, the journey of Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem and miraculous birth of Jesus are central to our Christian identity. We have grown up with stories of a Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, of shepherds watching their sheep by night, angels glorifying God, and a star that guided Wisemen to a manger. As adults, we’ve come to realize that Joseph and Mary’s journey was actually no easy trek; that each step of the way was beset with hardship, doubt, and setbacks that demanded uncompromising faith.
So too, our own lives demand a similar uncompromising faith and trust. From birth to death our personal journeys require openness to an unseen Presence that guides us through changes from childhood to adulthood; through joys, doubts, and the constant ebb and flow of each day. These personal journeys mold us into the person we are. Each life experience demands that we respond with prayerful attention to God’s unfathomable ways. We are mystery—just as winds blow and stars shine.
This second “Pandemic Christmas” underscores the pleasure of celebrating with family and friends. It heightens the comfort of a warm fire and the taste of good wine. It also urges us to soften the need of those who, like Joseph and Mary, search the winter nights of their journey for a safe place of respite. May we respond to their need with the courage to be living “Christmas gifts” for those most disadvantaged and alone.