Summary: Life is a journey and we, like Joseph, have a lot of choices to make as we travel.
I’ve been across the U.S. by auto two times. In 1965 I was the moody 12 year old traveling with parents in the cab of a non-air-conditioned F-250 pickup with a camper on it. The second time was the driver of an Areostar with six people and a heavy 19’ trailer. Both times were adventures. Both times I was ready for the trip to be done. Ever had one of those trips?
In the Christmas movie Elf the title character discovers he was a human baby raised by elves. He travels back to New York City to find his bio-dad, in the process learns, and teaches others about caring. Will Ferrell describes his journey by saying, "I passed through the seven levels of the Candy Cane forest, through the sea of swirly twirly gum drops, and then I walked through the Lincoln Tunnel." Mystery and reality entwine to create the image of someone who is crazy. Yet in truth he’s the sanest for he has made that transition and knows the reality of both mystery and reality.
Such journeys from mystery to reality are a staple for God’s people. Abraham journeys to a mysterious new place and is shown the land promise by God. Joseph, the son of Jesse, journeys to Egypt as a slave and saves those who sold him into slavery. With acts of mighty power God takes Israel from Pharaoh to the Promised land. Even within that journey was another 40 year journey as God prepared His people. Israel journeyed into exile for continuing disobeying God and then once again, as promised in Jeremiah 31, they are restored as they journey. A new Exodus, back into the place of God’s grace and mercy, will happen.
Finally the most mysterious journey takes place as Jesus, the Son of God, who journeys from His place of eternal worship into the womb of Mary and the care of his human father, Joseph.
If you haven’t realized it, we are all on a journey to somewhere. Some of us have completed a bit more of that journey than others. Some of us try not to move. We hold on doggedly to the past, like those Jews who wanted to go back to Egypt and die as slaves rather than face the unknown with God. There are those who run ahead of the pack. They embrace change without any thought to the source of the change; the link it has with our past or the consequences of it for their lives. I believe God has a journey on which we are to be travelling. I believe it is informed and directed by the Holy Spirit and God’s Word when we are receptive to God’s voice. I do not believe that every trip is one that should be taken.
Think about your own journeys up till today. How’s the trip so far? There have been some pretty good moments haven’t there? There have been times which shook our lives to their core. There may have been some detours on the trip as well. Here’s an exercise for you to do. Consider one time when you knew God was with you on this journey. Now, consider a time when you didn’t have any sense of God’s presence at all. In two minutes or less I want you to share these with your neighbor. That’s 30 seconds for each experience.
We should be able to relate to Joseph. His journey has unhappiness, uncertainty and a bit of uneasiness about it. He journeys from shame and alarm at Mary’s pregnancy to wonder as he God’s angel meets him in a dream. He journeys from a desire to distance himself from Mary and all that might have been to a place of wonder at the child to be born to them. I the movie, A Nativity Story, there is a great scene, not from the bible, in which Mary and Joseph are traveling to Bethlehem and are camping for the night. Mary asks him if he is afraid and he says, "Yes." She answers, "Me too." As they wonder about Jesus, Joseph says, "I wonder if I’ll be able to teach him anything?"
On our journey this Advent we are traveling down a road to a new future. None of us has been there before. None of us knows what will take place in the coming months. Let me give you three travel tips and then flesh them out a bit more for us.
• Pack what you need to take not what you want to take. Airlines are charging for baggage now so it literally pays to pack light.
• Take ½ the clothes and 2 times the money. No trip is without the unexpected.
• Flexibility and patience are marks of a well-journeyed soul. Sea grass survives a hurricane better than the tree because it bends with the wind.