From time to time you hear about babies being born in a car on the way to the hospital. Suddenly, an expectant father becomes an obstetrician. While those moments must be very stressful, I imagine that the back seat of a modern-day car must seem like the Mayo Clinic compared to a stable in Bethlehem. I don’t think that St. Joseph gets enough credit for making the Christmas story a happy one, so I offer you my five reflections for spending Christmas with St. Joseph:
1. Sore feet. I have never ridden a donkey before, but I imagine that there is not much room for anyone besides a pregnant woman. The trip to the delivery stable was not short. Google Maps puts it at over ninety miles of walking. Luke’s Gospel does not indicate that Mary was in active labor during the trip, but nonetheless Joseph did all the walking. Remember that getting things ready for Christmas can be exhausting, but don’t add to the stress of the delivery by being cranky. I guarantee you that Joseph didn’t complain.
2. No reservations. We know for a fact that the Holy Family had no reservations, so Joseph had to do some quick thinking. Flexibility is the first ingredient to lowering holiday stress. This Christmas expect the unexpected, say a little prayer to St. Joseph, and go with the flow. When things turn upside down, you’ll smile and not frown.
3. There’s company coming. After Jesus was born, there were a lot of visitors. First the shepherds showed up, next the Magi, and all along a multitude of Heavenly Hosts were enjoying the view. A little alone time is a nice thing, but it may not happen this year. Enjoy any calm before the storm. Don’t just lie on your bed and nap; spiritually rest. Say your favorite prayer slowly (mine is the Memorare), and ask the newborn Prince of Peace to let his peace stay with you when you are in the midst of a big crowd, especially if that crowd is related to you.
4. Away from home. Joseph and his young family were away from their friends when Jesus was born. Many people are alone on Christmas, and for some this is very challenging. If you’re not one of those people, stop and think if you know someone who will be alone, and invite them over for a little Christmas cheer. I am of the opinion that someone outside the family at the Christmas table puts everyone else on their best behavior. If you will be alone this Christmas, remember that you’re never alone. In prayer, spend some time with the Holy Family in their solitude. Holidays need not be lonely. You can actually make Christmas an intentional spiritual retreat, a planned time of prayer with the best company imaginable.
5. No delivery. I am not talking about the baby; I mean dinner. New moms need to eat and drink to regain their strength. The Gospels make no mention of a Domino’s delivery camel showing up outside the stable. Joseph shopped, cooked, and cleaned. If that is your Christmas job assignment, be grateful because you’re in such great company. If you normally don’t help with these things, put down your eggnog, get your lazy self off the couch, and say these simple words, “I will do the dishes.” Think of it as doing Jesus’ dishes.
—Excerpted from 5 Things with Father Bill by William Byrne