What if the message of Advent hope, Christmas joy, and the journeying that marks Epiphany is an annual invitation for us to reawaken to our own journeys with God? Does your hope and realized joy lead you into a renewed commitment to journeying with God, to going forward on the often unfamiliar paths God invites us to follow?
It seems relatively easy to fall into those few weeks of hope and preparation as we make ready for our family and friend gatherings of Christmas. But most of us have known seasons when it has been hard to muster the energy such hopefulness requires. When making arrangements and decorating all feels a bit too much for a brief joy. As the hope of God revealed among us, that hopeful task asks for so much more of us than this routine of acknowledging others and in choosing gifts to tangibly demonstrate our care. The hope that Advent calls us to cultivate isn’t one that just happens. It is instead a durable and deep hope founded on our trust in God – not on what we can do ourselves or even what we alone want to see happen.
If all the stars align, we find great joy in the time spent with people we care about in our celebration of Christmas. But there’s always an “if”. Illness invades, our schedules crash up against others, and our hopes in the build up to Christmas are not fully realized. But the joy of the shepherds, the joy of the magi arriving after a long journey, wasn’t built on expectations. It was built on the joy that comes from unexpected discovery. Something that deserved their attention has drawn them and they don’t know what to expect. Theirs is a joy of unexpected delight in what God is doing. Theirs is a joy in the wonders that God provides. Their joy dawns from being present to what is happening in those moments.
And then there is the return journey of the magi and the journey to Egypt that their visit launches for Mary, Joseph, and the toddler Jesus that we celebrate in Epiphany. They all go home by another way. They have lived in their hope, they have discovered a deep joy, and now they depart into the unknown as God leads them. How are you being invited to awaken to the path God is calling you to see opening before you? How might there be a path that God is opening that will lead you home by another way, not sticking to what you know already or returning to your usual routine as you put away Christmas?