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It seems to have become the “new normal,” being ready to evacuate the valley as another fire rages nearby. We’ve been encouraged to think about what we would take with us if we had to leave and to have a “go bag” ready. Important papers, pictures, laptops, medications, a suitcase of clothing. It’s difficult to consider if you had to pare down your life to essentials, you have to wonder what would be on your list. This reality has also created a level of stress and anxiety that has been palpable.

By the time this goes to print, Christmas Day will have come and gone. All the preparations to make the day special either worked or didn’t. Hopefully, when you read this you are enjoying a day of recovery and rest. Of course, that won’t last long because next week is New Year’s Day and all the energy that comes with that day!

It wasn’t much different for the holy family according to Matthew’s telling of it. While still in the glow of entertaining visitors from the East, who had come bringing gifts and strange messages that their baby would be a future king, Joseph has a dream that he must pack up his family and travel to Egypt. The message in the dream is that there are those in power who would harm the child.

As someone who has some experience of life-changing dreams, Joseph does as his dream encourages, he packs up his family and evacuates to a foreign country. It’s difficult to image the anxiety and stress that would have created for that family.

Whether it was the holy family or our families today, there come those moments when life throws us down a painful, frightening path where the future is not certain. What resources do you have at your disposal? How will you handle the stress? What are the essentials you will take with you?

Joseph had his dreams and his faith. He and Mary had each other and a precious child to care for. When folks in the valley had to be ready to evacuate, there were many people in our community and beyond who were aware of their plight and offered help — food, a place to stay, companionship in the days ahead. In the end, aren’t these truly the essentials? Isn’t this what the story of Christmas and after teaches us? Even down difficult roads, God will travel with us, if only a step at a time.

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Jonathan Eastman is pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Saint Helena, 1428 Spring St. For info call 963-1255.

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