Today might be a good time to start thinking about this coming Holy Family Sunday: Imagine how it might have felt for Mary and Joseph after the shepherds had headed back to their flocks. This new family was alone once again. Their makeshift maternity ward was still a stable. They were still political pawns in Rome’s bean-counting census. They were still strangers in this village far away from Nazareth. They still faced their obligation to present their baby for a proper circumcision. And perhaps they were still facing unknown economic circumstances.
Both the amazing adoration of local shepherds and this solitude were new to them, maybe even disconcerting. Mary and Joseph had much to think about, most of it unprecedented. They were just two first-time parents trying to make do in circumstances that weren’t ideal. They probably weren’t thinking about being a holy family.
This state of affairs left them in the kind of quiet that could prepare them for whatever was coming next—a future lodged somewhere between ominous and glorious. In the middle of the quiet, though, they had work to do—finding a better place to live, finding employment, finding (distant) relatives, finding their parenting instincts, finding help in their situation.
In this moment in history, we may also be suspended within unparalleled circumstances. These may also be in-between times, waiting-for-what’s-next times. Getting-ready times. Quiet times. As the high emotions of Christmas recede, this week might offer us opportunities to prepare for what’s coming toward us—a near-term future that’s perhaps also somewhere between wonderful and threatening. To stand aside from the swirl of current events and remember what part of God’s work we will keep doing. To maintain our trust in God’s providence.
To take our place among the rest of God’s holy families….
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