The sun had set hours ago as Joseph and Mary slowly continued to make their way towards Bethlehem. When they left Nazareth days ago they had tried to stay with those they knew from the villages around, but it was no use. With Mary so uncomfortable and becoming bone weary, they just could not keep up. That had resulted in almost the entire trip made either among total strangers or alone. As Joseph led the donkey at a snail’s pace along the darkened road, some less than noble thoughts raced through his troubled mind,
What a horrible time to have to pick up and go to our ancestral home! Couldn’t have come at a worse time. Mary is so worn out, I really don’t know if she is going to make it or not. But there is not a single thing I can do—we sure can't stop out here for the night among these creepy rock hills, and anyway, it’s getting much too cold. Surely God would not send us His Son and take my Mary at the same time! Lord, Bethlehem’s got to be close—just work everything out and quickly!
Christmas is a busy season for all pastors, but I send this encouragement out to all you solo pastors out there who are beginning to feel bone weary once more in the ministry of this season. For you there is no stopping until your “Bethlehem” comes and it is all over both in the community and congregation. Every event you are expected to either lead or attend, and you do it willingly and with grace, for you serve Him whose birth this is. But it still is a weariness of the spirit and flesh. If family and friends are visiting with you, there is precious little time to spend with them until after all the hubbub is over.
Cheer up; lift up your heart my brother! Doing the will of God has been this way since the very first Christmas when Joseph and Mary, in order to fulfill the will of God, had to make that business trip and temporary move to “The House of Bread.” They too had to be busy about His work while seemingly neglecting family and friends. It is the price of ministry to our Lord God, but it is worth paying.
Tell you what—when Christmas season is over, do what Joseph and Mary did. Take some time off in the New Year! Really do take some R and R.
Blessings to each one of you out there in God's hinterland, faithfully serving with merry heart and weary flesh.
Pastor George M. McGuire