by the Rev. Mary Earle
“All went to their own towns to be registered.” Luke 2:3
We are getting so close to Bethlehem. It’s just up ahead, around the corner. We can see the crowd on the road, trekking in for the census. So many people shuffle along the way together. Children cry, wondering when they will get to the destination. Parents fret over lodging and food.
And taxes. Those taxes that have led us to this point in the journey.
Our journey toward Bethlehem, toward the vulnerable life of God, always takes place within a social, cultural and political context. We might want to think that the spiritual life will insulate us. Far from it. Sooner or later, this baby who is the Word made flesh points us back to the world brought into being through him. His parents make their way to Bethlehem in the midst of others who are in need.
In this moment of the scriptural narrative, Mary and Joseph are moving in the midst of many others. Portrayed in every Christmas pageant in the church, their journey unfolds in the midst of their first century realities. They live under Roman occupation. They are ruled by a singularly merciless dictator. Poverty is a reality. Ethnic and racial animosity abounds.
Yet both Mary and Joseph have said “yes” to a journey that will shelter God’s own vulnerable life in the baby Jesus. Mary has assented to conceive this child, her “yes” offered in the quiet habitation of her own body. Joseph has received a sacred dream, and he has acted on it. They have chosen to step forth without fully knowing where that will lead. The fact of Mary’s and Joseph’s willingness to take this journey offers us wisdom on the way. They take it together, following through on what they have seen and heard within their own hearts, souls, and dreams.
In our own lives, singular and ordinary as they are, each of us will receive those annunciations. Sometimes they will come in a dream, sometimes in the voice of a trusted friend. Sometimes the words of scripture will take flesh in us the moment that we hear them. Sometimes a hymn will be the Spirit’s way of singing us into our own journeys.
Mary and Joseph were faithful to their own calls, their own invitations from the living God. Each responded with all that they have and all that they are. Their lives will unfold in joy and in sorrow, in awakenings and in confusion, in joy at the manger and the dangerous flight into Egypt. They chose to honor the vulnerable life of God in this baby. They invite us to do the same as we join them on the road, mindful of our own calls to tend the vulnerable life of Christ all around us.
The Rev. Mary Earle is a writer, retreat leader, and writer-in-residence at The Work+Shop in San Antonio TX. Find all of Mary’s books by searching Amazon.com. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.