By Cory L. Kemp
News reports include the shooting of a suspected terrorist by U.S. Air Marshals, a volcanic eruption in the South Pacific, and an airliner landing at Chicago’s Midway International Airport in heavy snow, slid off the runway and stopped on a street adjacent to the airport. We learned that a child had been killed in the accident.
Meanwhile, Saddam Hussein’s trial continues without him because he refuses to come to court, more U.S. troops are being killed in Iraq and the clean up from multiple natural disasters continues in the Southern United States, Pakistan, Central America and Indonesia. It is difficult, even if our lives are only lightly touched by these stories, to remember that we are in the middle of Advent, the preparatory days before Christmas in which we consider the changes the coming Messiah will make in our lives and the world.
As I sit at my kitchen table with my coffee cup close by, my radiators are whistling and hissing, and show is falling as far as I can see out my windows. I’m thinking that Mary and Joseph were probably about to set out on the road to Bethlehem, or were already on their way by this point. Short as that trip would be for us, for them it was a major undertaking, and one filled with uncertainty. At best, they were traveling across uneven terrain, camping each night, and living on simple, easy to carry foods.
The worst case scenario could have included premature labor, an injured donkey, dust storms and run-ins with criminals. Still, they made the journey. Taxation, then and now, is a fact of life, and their government demanded that they return to their ancestral home to be counted in the census that would create the basis for the tax structure.
Thinking about their journey, I also remember the brutality of their world. Taxation was debilitating, the climate was harsh, unyielding to civilization, and what little people had was easily crushed or carried away by agents of Roman rulers who barely tolerated Jewish religious practices. Herod, king at the time Mary and Joseph started this trip, was cruel to the point of murdering his own family members. Common people had no say, no vote, and no hope. What they had was generally a minimal, miserable existence.
But somehow, out of that culture, we have this story, this image of hope, as these people do what they have to do to keep their lives together. They make this journey, escape the tyranny of an insane man killing off young children across the whole country, and go on to raise their child, continue paying taxes and doing their work. Worship was a part of their lives too, and the center of their faith was that the Messiah would come. How or when was not a given, but the hope and the promise. Holding onto that hope and promise is what we remember them for best.
The world has always balanced between brutal reality and the hope and the promise. Mary and Joseph set off on their journey as two, and came home as three, literally making space in their home and lives for another person. Many parents before and after them have made the same provisions. Perhaps they wondered whether the world into which their child arrived was fit for new life. Many parents before and after them have wondered the same thing, but are perhaps really wondering how to make sure this new chance at life in their daughter or son knows more than the brutality of the world, knows also the hope and the promise.
How do we keep that hope and promise alive, and how do we share that with the children of our world? First we must keep the story itself alive, and we must keep telling it, and telling it, and telling it some more, in as many ways as we can. And then, we must make room for this story of hope and promise in our lives, and keep making room, over and over and over, in as many ways as we can.
About The Author – Cory L. Kemp is an ordained minister she has worked in educational ministries in several congregations, as well as pastoring a congregation. Her website can be found at http://www.creatingwomenministries.com, and she can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. My blog is located at http://creatingwomenministries.blogspot.com.