But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.
(Micah 5:2, Luke 2:4 - 5, NIV 84)
We have spent our entire married life 3 states away from our parents and most siblings; generally speaking, December was a time of pilgrimage back to the home state of Indiana. At first, it was just My Sweet Babboo and me, but over the years we added more kids...and luggage...to the trip. We've had issues with cars, issues with weather, issues with illness but somehow have managed to make it there and back safely...if a little travel worn...year after year. We've even added the son-in-law a couple of times.
But schedules...and vacation availability...don't always cooperate. This is one of those years in which we are not going to make the trip. Christmas on Sunday is a tough schedule to work around. And, I have to admit, not having to deal with luggage, or worry about weather, sicknesses, car reliability, etc has been something of a relief.
But I miss the family. I miss the traditional Christmas Eve service in the 100+ year old church in Elkhart. I miss the sights and sounds and amazing smells that always accompany Christmas. And, despite hating to drive in scary winter weather, I miss lake effect snow on Christmas.
But today, as I was listening to Straight No Chaser's version of 'I'll be Home for Christmas' play through our stereo, it suddenly struck me that Mary and Joseph didn't spend that first Christmas with family, either.
We have the impression that Mary was in the throes of labor when they got to Bethlehem, but the scripture doesn't say 'They arrived in Bethlehem, and that night....' it just states 'While they were there....'. I don't know how long the census taking process took; it may be that they had been there as much as a week or two or even longer. They may have even thought they would have time to make the journey, spend a couple of days registering, and then make it home before the baby came....and then one day turned into another frustrating day turned into another frustrating day...and then it was suddenly Time.
There's a level of stress all it's own when things go wrong on a trip. There's nothing like sitting in a stalled out car waiting and waiting and waiting for AAA to send a tow truck...when you've got four hungry kids in the back. Or postponing the trip home for a day...or two...because people are throwing up. I have a feeling that, from the moment Mary and Joseph entered Bethlehem, nothing went according to plan. They were having to improvise just to have shelter.
At least, it didn't go according to THEIR plan. God's plan was obviously in place and running right on schedule.
So this brings up my Advent pondering...God has a plan, and that plan will always make a way. Even if it doesn't appear to be convenient, comfortable or the way I'd like.
Even in years when 'Home for Christmas' means miles away from Christmas as It Used To Be.