On Poverty, Living in Unexpected Places, and the Christmas Story

Maybe it’s because I just moved to a new city where I don’t know a lot of people and don’t yet have a job, but this Advent and Christmas season Mary and Joseph’s flight to Egypt and experiences with poverty have struck a chord with me.

Here Mary is given the greatest honor of being chosen to be the mother of the Messiah, and Joseph, to be her husband and the human father to Jesus. Both were appointed these important roles by God out of all the people He created and would create. Well, I should say, both were asked to play these roles by God and both chose to say yes.

But what were they thinking when they said yes? Certainly not that they would continue to live lowly and humble lives not too terribly different from the people around them, at least on the outside. Sometimes I like to think the life of faith is one similar to the Weasley’s car or Triwizard Tournament camping tent in the Harry Potter books –that though it appears normal on the outside, the inside is so much bigger than you could imagine, but you would never know it just from a glance.

But Mary and Joseph still had to live on faith and hope, trusting God with each step in their lives. I’m sure Mary did not envision spending the last few days and weeks of her pregnancy traveling on a donkey, only to be turned away from any comfortable lodgings and forced to give birth in a cave/stable when she first thought of having the Savior of the world.

And I’m sure that Joseph did not envision fleeing to Egypt and having to provide for his small family in a place where he knew few if any people, cut off from his culture and family (one in the same then) when he agreed to serve as a human father to the Son of God.

Was this the right way of things when it seemed so difficult? Shouldn’t it be easier (and more comfortable) to follow God’s plan? This was for the King of kings after all. Shouldn’t things be richly provided for if God was behind it all?

But I think God’s ways of leading this holy family shows the example to us of how He moves in our lives too.
Sometimes it seems like doors of opportunity, safety, or comfort are being shut in my face on purpose. What did God mean by closing these doors to Mary and Joseph as they entered Bethlehem? I think it was partly to show us that even these pivotal and blessed people were led to and through poverty and uncertainty as part of the way to His coming kingdom, as part of the way to becoming holy.

They, too, were traveling in the dark, making things up as they went, and being directed by God when they would choose the wrong way.

I have had to rely on the kindness of strangers and friends as I find my place in this new city and it is humbling. But then, it is also making me surer that this is God’s way.

Sometimes the right way is not smooth and easy, but nonetheless serves to make you holier, that is, closer to God and His ways, more enlightened in understanding, and able to serve as a vehicle of grace to others (in the present and millennia in the future).