I wonder if the appeal of river/ocean cruises and guided land tours is that, as a passenger or tourist, beyond enjoying every detail of the trip, its sights and experiences and meals and accommodations, there is no burden to make decisions, no organizing necessary, no timetables to juggle, no connection deadlines with which to be concerned. And for the directionally challenged among us, no anxiety over finding destinations or places to park. Sometimes, even baggage schlepping is completely handled by discreet employees (obviously, one pays handsomely for these perks). While I’ve not had either of the above-mentioned spoilings, I’m just as jazzed to visit friends who do all the driving and most of the decision-making during our visit (is it just me, or are you, too, sometimes delightfully surprised at the ease with which those familiar with the territory get from Point A to Point B, when you haven’t the foggiest notion where you are or where you’re going, not to mention how you’d ever get back from B to A again?). An insurance company TV ad used a comforting tag line that sums it up, ‘You’re in good hands.’

So, back 2000 years to the southerly pilgrimage of Joseph and Mary. As the miles travelled accumulated, the distance from the comforts and normalcy of family and home widened, the time for the baby to be born drew nearer, one would anticipate waves of sadness and disorientation and outright fear to weigh our couple down. But they’re not on this trek alone. It doesn’t seem far-fetched to me to imagine the Holy Spirit accompanying them on this divine assignment, this mission that would bring definitive change to everything in every way for everyone everywhere forever! In just a few short days, an unstoppable joy invasion, from the very courts of Heaven would be announced in the skies. Bands of shepherds, on their harsh, lonely, midnight vigils, would be privileged to be chosen to participate in an event so deeply holy, so hushed, that their hearts were set afire. Far away, to the east, a new star would burst onto the canopy of the night sky, stirring wealthy God seekers to begin their own journey. And first-time parents would stare and stare and stare at this, their precious newborn son, but not their son. Not really. Joseph and Mary knew they had been swept up into an epic drama, far beyond their choosing, far beyond their deserving, far beyond all telling. An epic tale of soaring joy that would continue carrying them through times of crushing sorrow that were to come. Yes, this mystery, this chain of events, felt scripted by God himself, established at Creation and only now, in their day, in their lives, was it unfolding in all its supernatural perfection. In the year 2021, that unfolding continues in usthrough us. We’ve been likewise launched onto the ongoing, ever-unfolding, journey of Good News and Great Joy!   PD

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