By Archbishop Philip Freier
28 November 2021
In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered … All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went to the town of Nazareth … because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. Luke 2:1-5.
I hope that our imaginations have been enlarged during our own time of compliance to health and other directives and this means we can better understand the circumstances of Joseph and Mary in the nativity narratives. We know that difficulty and inconvenience are not the full story of complying with an enforceable directive. You will have your own impressions of 2021 that endure in your memory of this year, now ending. I’m sure that I take out of this year a much more vivid experience of inhabiting a five-kilometre radius of permitted movement.
Whether on account of imperial edict in their time or of health directives in ours, we share the experience of disrupted expectation. I think that we can use the season of Advent fruitfully this year. I’m aware of how we have all had to miss out on important life events for ourselves or others. Disrupted schooling and tertiary education and working remotely from our offices are perhaps the least of these. Many have been unable to participate in funerals in the way they would have liked and have needed to be satisfied with watching online. New additions to the family were met online and anyone with important life events happening interstate, let alone overseas, has a big gap in their life. It is proper that we stop and encounter our grief for those things that we have missed. We carry our mourning not just on account of the death of those we’ve loved but for missed experience, even joyful ones.
Advent is a season of preparation, and we can use it well by reflecting on our journey and taking time to go more deeply into those things about ourselves that we usually avoid or seek distraction from. Used well, this Advent season prepares us, prepares our expectation for the restoration of our lives becoming “normal” once again. This does not necessarily mean a straight return to all the old and familiar routines since, if we have grown though our hardship, much will be new for us to embrace.
Joseph and Mary had much that remained new for them to experience and comprehend, including further hardship as they sought refuge in Egypt. They carried with them the world’s Saviour whom they would know in a unique way as they embraced their role in God’s plan of salvation. Our Christmas celebrations invite us, and all people, to receive Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord and to carry the knowledge of his presence throughout all that the future holds for us. Every blessing for a holy journey through Advent as it carries us on to Christmas.