Plans have had to be changed. Hopes have been dashed. Expectations will not be met. Tears have fallen and fears are on the up. Anticipation has become anticlimax.
Does any of this sound familiar? And apply to your particular situation?
It certainly applies to a great many people throughout the UK.
Consider this, however: it also applies to Mary and Joseph.
Having negotiated the emotional hurdles and social obstacles of the impending birth, we might dare to imagine that this Galilean couple hunker down and take some time to prepare for the new addition to their family.
Perhaps Joseph stayed up late in the workshop, making a crib.
Mary meanwhile might have been taking advantage of his absence to get together with her mother and other, older, female relatives. What would childbirth be like? What would she need? How could she best prepare herself? Who would be with her when it was about to happen? Would they stick around to help her afterwards?
And then, out of the blue, just like the new strain of Covid-19, comes a decree from the Emperor Augustus requiring all male persons to travel to their place of origin for a census.
Well, the virus has had the effect of stopping our travel plans rather than requiring travel plans to be put hastily in place.
But the results are similar, are they not, in some ways?
Expectations – perfectly reasonable expectations – cannot be met after all. Families who joyfully anticipated the celebration of Christmas in one home will not be together.
As for Mary, she will be separated from her mum, her aunties, her older sisters.
Joseph will not have time to finish making the crib as he will have to put together all the arrangements for the journey. I hope he had help to do this – for although our Christmas cards generally depict the couple on their own (or with a donkey), would there not be other members of Joseph’s family required to make the long (about 70 miles) journey north to Bethlehem?
In other years many of us have made sure that the cupboards (and drinks cabinet!) were well stocked in case of unexpected visitors.
Not necessary this year.
But praise God that he sent some unexpected visitors to the stable. They were not looking for food and drink, but rather the privilege of gazing upon the One who would save his people from their sins, Emmanuel, God with us, the One who would be King of kings.
“Hark! the herald angels sing, ‘Glory to the newborn King!’”
Hopes dashed? Expectations not met?
Let’s think again.
May your Christmas be bright with hope
filled with expectation for a better year ahead
and enriched by the love of family and friends
wherever you, and they, happen to be.
(tree in Meadowside St Paul's Hall at the beginning of December)