“Over the river and through the woods, to grandmother’s house we go.” Wow. What would it be like to just harness the horses to the sled and make the snowy trek to grandmother’s?

Now it’s: “Is grandmother vaccinated? Do we even want to get into that conversation? If we fly can the kids keep their masks on? Will this be a super-spreader event? What food allergies do we need to be aware of? Do I want my kids playing ‘Halo’ with their older cousins?”

Has it always been this complicated?

Let’s travel back in our minds a couple thousand years. You’re a gonna-be-husband engaged to your teenage soon-to-be bride who’s pregnant out of wedlock in a culture where that’s not okay. Yes, God has approved it (it’s a unique circumstance, to say the least), but that doesn’t stop the sideways glances and disapproving whispers.

Oh, and then there’s the census. A government mandate requiring you to do a bit of traveling, over rocky terrain, on a donkey, with no Chick-fil-A app, at 8.9 months pregnant.

Since Airbnb hasn’t been invented yet, you get to town and she’s in labor and there’s no room for you in any of the inns. So it’s into the stall (scoot over, donkey), and soon enough the baby is born.

The first (and only?) visitors are some shepherds, tough men with tears in their eyes. There’s a lot to think about given that star, angel Gabriel’s visits, and the angel choir.

We know the rest of the story. That baby grew, trusted, obeyed, preached, healed, inaugurated the Kingdom of God, died, and was raised from the dead. All authority is now his, and he is coming again one day. He knows hardship; he’s navigated difficult decisions, and he is a sympathetic high priest who will usher us near to the throne of grace to find help in our time of need (Hebrews 2:14ff, 4:14ff).

So let’s connect the riches of Christ to the realities of life.

       1.  Exchange details of your holiday plans with someone from church (“encouragement partner”) and commit to pray for one another.

       2. Commit to reaching out, at least once, with a text that includes something that God has been teaching you and a Scripture text that will encourage your encouragement partner.

Then, whether it’s to grandmother’s house we go or in our little apartment we sit, we know we are not alone. We are united to one another and to him who came to seek and save the lost and to help us navigate a very complicated world.

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