A family away from home

A family away from home

It is perhaps ironic, certainly providential (we are Presbyterian after all), that this Thanksgiving weekend also marks the beginning of Advent, our month-long celebration in anticipation of the coming of Christ.  Ironic/providential in that it is also a story of a young family unexpectedly compelled by their government to be away from their home in Nazareth at what surely must have seemed to them a VERY inconvenient time.  You will recall that Rome declared a census and because Joseph was of the house of David, he was required to return to the town of Bethlehem to be registered.  He and his very pregnant betrothed, Mary, made that long journey and, while they were there, Mary gave birth to Jesus. 

Of course we know the whole story, now.  We know that Bethlehem was the prophesied birthplace of the Messiah and that all of this, including a very uncomfortable, inconvenient and as it turned out, longer-than-expected sojourn in Bethlehem (at least two years), was part of God’s sovereign plan of salvation (a plan we have been studying in great detail in the book of Romans.)

But at the time, it must have been unsettling, inconvenient, uncomfortable and perhaps a little frightening to not only Joseph and Mary, but also to those of their family from whom they were separated.

 Hmmmm… sound familiar?  By now you have likely heard that Pastor Ellis, his wife Rachel and their two kids Evelyn and Ezra are in England for vacation.  While there, they went to the American Embassy for what was expected to be a routine visa renewal… and were denied.  It is too complicated to try to explain here and trust me, we are working diligently to address this issue (thanks to all for your help!)  But for now, the Whites are separated from us and we are not sure when or how that will be resolved.  

What we are trying to do—what we must do—is believe that God is control of this apparent travel snag, as well!  We don’t see the big picture.  We don’t understand how God is going to work this for his good.  Right now, all it seems to us is an unreasonable disruption of all our lives, the Whites and the Chapel Hill family that loves them so.  But God is no less in control in this moment and in this young family than he was 2000 years ago in Bethlehem. 

So, even as we pray and struggle and work for their return, let us rejoice for what God is going to do in and through this.  Perhaps we can start by acknowledging that suddenly, the Christmas story seems very much more real to us! Which is a good thing because here comes Advent, ready or not. 

Join us for worship this weekend.  If you’ve been away for whatever reason…come home!  And if you show up on Saturday night, you might be surprised to discover how packed out that place has been lately, a great option if Sunday doesn’t work! 

Blessings to you all this Advent season. 

Pastor Mark 

  1. Don’t forget Thanksgiving Eve service at 7:00, one of my favorites!  What better way to start your holiday weekend?  And we will resume Romans in the New Year… not to worry!