I’ve been thinking about St Joseph quite a bit lately and his journey to Bethlehem all those years ago. Joseph took that journey with a heavily pregnant Mary in order to return home.
In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered… All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth to Galilee to Judea to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child.
Joseph was returning to the town of his people, where his family came from; he was returning home. And for centuries, at this time of year, people have repeated that pilgrimage. They go home. They return to their families and spend this special time of year with the people most special to them.
There is another home that sees the chairs around the table filled up with its loved ones this time of year: our Church. At the time when we return to those most special to us, the Church sees many people return as well. In fact, the first time I decided to go to Church was during this time of year.
The Church can be to us like the town of Bethlehem was to Joseph. Maybe it was a place we knew as a child but we haven’t been there for a while or it’s the place our family is from but it’s like a foreign land to us. Or maybe it’s the home we grew up in, the place where we leave a mess, where we are so comfortable we forget how special it really is.
Have you ever asked how the Church sees you? I bet there are a lot of assumptions we could make and maybe not all of them favourable. But for me, I think the Church sees me as a child. Like a mother whose children are out making their own way in the world, she waits patiently at home for us to visit. She waits to share a meal with us, to listen, to comfort, to strengthen and to advise us, to give us everything we need so that when we head back out those doors we have more than enough to make our way. But mostly, she wants to love us. And whether we’re there each week, once a year or just see it as we drive past, she still loves us.
This Christmas, as we are surrounded by those we love most, there is someone waiting for us. There is a seat around the table just for us in a home where we are loved.
I’m looking forward to coming home this Christmas.
This Sunday's Scripture readings:
ISAIAH 35:1-6A, 10 | PSALM 146:6-7, 8-9, 9-10 | JAMES 5:7-10 | MATTHEW 11:2-11