Today, The Holy Family, again I refer to a young couple that gives birth in the bombed ruins of a one of a number of buildings in the mid-east. Like the Holy family of Christmas, they were traveling to escape war and violence when their child was born. That is my modern Nativity and it establishes a stark similarity between the crèche of two thousand years ago . I have to believe this family truly exists somewhere in the mid-east, and I wonder; might they be among the many Syrian refugees fleeing that country? I draw the comparison because like the Holy Family, they are a Family. The modern crèche.
Two devoted parents given the charge of caring for an infant. They are the most fundamental unit of society. They are one of the families that this day celebrates. I use the example I have chosen to emphasize the devotion those parents have for their child. To feed, clothe, protect, nurture and teach. It is something the Church celebrates, and the Holy Family is truly a guide. They are guides in Mary’s attentive yes to the Angel Gabriel. They are the guides in Josephs obedience to an Angel in caring for Mother and Child. They are guides in the care and discipline, and devotion of raising the Christ Child. Many modern families follow the guidance of Mary and Joseph through unbelievably harsh circumstances. I am certain there are many among those refugees fleeing war. The Holy Family of Jesus Mary and Joseph, and those that follow their example.
Brothers and sisters:
Put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved,
heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience,
bearing with one another and forgiving one another,
if one has a grievance against another;
as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do.
The gospel reading Lk 2:41-52 is of Mary and Joseph finding Jesus in the Temple, after losing Him on a Journey away from Jerusalem. A frantic search, and one that many can relate to. While that story illustrates the devotion of the parents, it illustrates something else too. It subtly gives reason for the birth of the Christ Child in that manger. Just as Mary and Joseph searched for their Child, Christ was born to bring us back after wandering from our journey. His birth is our reunion with our God. The relationships of the Holy Family mirror Gods relationship with us.
To go back to the Holy Family, one should turn to the focus of this celebration, ones gaze should be fixed on that Christ Child. Jesus is the one welcomes us Christians specifically into His Family. We enter that family through our baptism. This family is important too . It nurtures us, it guides us, and cares for us. It teaches us that we are part of Gods family, and how we should act as members of that family. It also teaches us how to interact with the families that surround us, how we interact with our neighbor. In these discussions of Families, I turn again to that family in the bombed out building struggling to provide safety for the child in their care. Being a member of a family isn’t always easy. This holiday season certainly emphasizes that.
Family members can shred each other faster than they shred the wrapping paper on a Christmas present. Dysfunction is used more often do describe families than “holy” is. Family holiday gatherings are not always “Joy to the world.” Peaceful is not always the first word that comes to mind when describing a family gathering, and that simply describes the fundamental family unit. It brings no mention of the larger family of man. A refugee is after all running away from home. Bombings and war are acts of violence against family members. But that is precisely the reason for this Nativity, it is to reconcile and give direction to an embattled family. There is good reason to dwell on the Holy Family of Jesus Mary and Joseph. All families can benefit greatly from that holy example. The imperfect should gaze at perfection with wonder and awe .