Beating the Bethlehem Blues

I’ll freely admit it: I’m one of those people who can get down-in-the-dumps around Christmas.  Now this is not for the reasons which most of us think of, when it comes to the idea of having a “Blue Christmas”.  Instead it arises when I forget to follow St. Joseph on the road to Bethlehem.

My moodiness isn’t the result of being alone.  I’m always with my family on Christmas for at least several days, for one thing; I usually get invited to several parties by my friends and acquaintances in the lead-up to Christmas and then through New Year’s Eve and Epiphany.  While some people are lonely during this time of year, I’m fortunate that I have plenty of opportunities to spend time with others and celebrate.

Nor is there a materialism issue.  Frankly, I would be happy to receive nothing at all on Christmas morning, other than perhaps some Christmas cards from distant old friends.  This year for example, my father had to BEG for a list of possible Christmas gifts they could get me, and all I could come up with were some books and a request for more argyle socks.

Rather, for me Christmas can easily become a time when I look in the mirror and say, “You blew it.”  I look back at a patchwork of successes and failures over the past twelve months, and conclude that I don’t have much to offer the Newborn King.  Another year has gone by, punctuated with great gifts from above, and I have repaid Him by committing stupid errors and making poor decisions.

However this is not what St. Joseph, the man who listened to a voice in his dreams, would have chosen to do: something I needed to remember both from his example and from my own life.  My regular readers may recall a post of mine from last year, What The Day Brings, recounting an occasion when I received a pretty vibrant wake-up call to be thankful and rejoice, rather than being anxious and fretful.  And I had forgotten that lesson, falling back into that annual mumbling of the Bethlehem Blues.

To get out of what I recognized was a voice from below, rather than above, as a man I found it particularly helpful this time around to think about St. Joseph on his way to Bethlehem.  He had no clue exactly how he was supposed to handle all the societal issues surrounding his young wife being pregnant with a child not his own.  He could not know how to travel to Bethlehem so close to her due date without risking her health or that of her unborn Son.  And upon arriving, as it turned out, he could not even find a decent place for them to stay.

This simple carpenter from a Judean backwater, who never utters a single word in the Gospels, chose to follow God’s Will in his life, even when he could not perceive where it was leading him.  He had already made his own plans before his visitation by God’s messenger in a dream.  Yet when his own ideas and plans turned out not to be compatible with what God was calling him to, he changed them.  It was more important to him to seek to do God’s Will, than to do what other people might want or expect him to do.

There are many things which we can bring to the Christ Child to celebrate His birthday.  Yet the best of all is a heart open to following the will of God, in the way that St. Joseph did.  Even when the way to Bethlehem seems rocky, and the path unmarked, such moments of uncertainty allow us the opportunity to renew our commitment to seeking out His Will in our lives.  However unworthy we may be, the best cure for Christmastime blues, or indeed such thoughts at any time, is turning to Him in obedience and faith, as St. Joseph did.  With the hours we have left until Christmas, let’s all try to recommit ourselves to following God in the same way.

Mosaic of the Journey to Bethlehem (1315-1320)  Church of the Holy Spirit, Chora, Turkey

Mosaic of the Journey to Bethlehem (1315-1320)
Church of the Holy Spirit, Chora, Turkey

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