Now after [the Magi] had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him." Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, "Out of Egypt I have called my son."
As believers, we prepare for the coming of Christ each Christmas, and in our tradition, four weeks of Advent. I listened to the readings this year in youth group and Bible study, and as we recorded the Lessons and Carols service for this Sunday. Each year, a new portion or facet of the story reveals itself to me. This year, it was a deep resonance with Joseph's story. Last Christmas, we were expecting the imminent birth of a new son. He arrived in February. Barely had we welcomed him when we received word that a pandemic was spreading globally. Those most at-risk were believed to be the elderly and anyone with respiratory problems. Taking home our infant who'd spent his first days in the NICU for his lungs and breathing difficulties, we took seriously the warnings to isolate and quarantine. An official quarantine was announced for everyone a week later.
Like Mary and Joseph, we accepted we would not see our family for an unknown amount of time and resigned to this new world of uncertainty. Like Mary, my wife had happily anticipated frequent visits from her large extended family and her parents, and now, we knew we wouldn't be seeing them. They wouldn't get to hold him and watch him begin to crawl and talk and walk. Like Joseph, I worried about the danger my family was facing and about my ability to provide for them as my work changed radically. And like Jesus, our new baby worried only about his next meal and his own comfort and had no clue the world had changed. But, like Joseph, I imagine, he discovered a new joy in watching his son grow, and taking a greater role in his care within their tiny circle of family.
This week, we light the Joy candle of the Advent wreath. I don't know if you've had trouble identifying joy this year. Many of us have. But I expect, that like the Holy family, we have and will find joy as often in the unexpected as in what we expect or hope for in the year behind and the one ahead. For me, the joy of working primarily from home and holding my boy for countless hours is both a great deal of work and an unexpected joy. I pray for each of us to be open to, witness to, and eager for God's gifts of unexpected joys this year and next.