Looking beyond the Nativity story
Andrew Frere Smith reminds us of the hardships that were faced by the family of baby Jesus at that first Christmas.
When I was a primary school head teacher, the build up to Christmas seemed to go on for ever. Preparations usually began in October, immediately after half-term, when the children started learning carols and auditioning for parts in the play. By the end of term, I had sung endless carols, attended numerous plays, and met Father Christmas at least half a dozen times!
The story we present in school rightly centres around the nativity scene. We all love to see Mary and Joseph, the angels and the wise men, the shepherds, and the sheep. However, we tend to gloss over the more difficult episodes in the story.
I imagine there must have been a fair amount of anxiety as Joseph and Mary journeyed to Bethlehem. The baby could have been born at any moment, they had no idea where they would stay, and they must have been tired, hungry, and cold. I guess there would have been moments when they wondered if it might have been wiser to have stayed in Nazareth, at least until the baby was born.
Once Jesus was born, they had to flee to Egypt, another taxing journey, and this time to an unknown country. As refugees, they had to find somewhere to call home and Joseph needed to get a job. They had to settle into a community and get used to the customs and culture. They had to stay for an unknown period, until Herod died, before they were safe to return to Nazareth. How long would that be?
On that first Christmas, Mary and Joseph triumphed over adversity, but it wasn't without stress, anxiety, and no doubt a fair bit of worry. Unfortunately, Christmas remains a stressful time for many families today. It is the time when marriages break, domestic abuse rises, financial debts increase, and the lonely feel their sadness more acutely than ever.
Thankfully, there are some tremendous people and organisations across Norfolk who work selflessly to help those in adversity. To you, in particular, I wish a very blessed and happy Christmas.
The picture above is of a walking nativity organised by Cawston Parish Church in 2019.
This article first appeared in the Imagine Norfolk Together: King's Lynn Newsletter.
Andrew Frere-Smith is Development Worker for Imagine Norfolk Together, based in Kings Lynn.
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