The promise of a newborn baby is usually good news, bringing hope and joy to a family as they anticipate the arrival of their child. But when the news is unexpected, as it was for the unwed Joseph and his betrothed Mary, the promise of a newborn baby brings fear and trepidation, particularly for Joseph. Perhaps Joseph’s story is there to remind us that welcoming God into our lives might also be met with mixed emotion. When we least expect it, God sometimes sends a message we really don’t want to hear. When we most want to run away, God sometimes calls us to follow and serve where we didn’t’ really want to go. (Jonah knew that experience well.) But then there are the other times. When we feel most unsure and a friend appears to encourage us, bringing unexpected joy in realizing someone is with us, to support us on the journey. When we feel most alone and suddenly sense God’s presence, the comfort of God’s presence can bring us both peace and joy. When we need encouragement only to sense God cheering us on, we are blessed with the joy of knowing we’re following where God would have us go. In those times, we celebrate and rejoice. But even in the other times, God invites us to joy: Do not be afraid; I am with you. Perhaps the joy isn’t always happy-go-lucky, laughter-in-the-rain joy. But there is a joy deeper than laughter and having fun that comes in knowing God is with us, through good times and bad, happy or sad. This is the promise of Christmas. Christ came so that we would know always that God is with us. Even when we’re not sure we want God’s presence front and center, still God is here, with us, inviting us to courage and strength, hope and faith. Joy to the world, the Lord has come and is with us now and forevermore.