In the fullness of time God sent His son, born of a woman (Gal 4:4). He sent his son into a family, the Holy Family of Mary, Joseph and Jesus.
What do we celebrate at Christmas? We celebrate the fact that God sent his Son Jesus into a family. By this act God is saying that his plan of salvation comes in and through the family. Christmas is about family!
Where ever we are in the world, at Christmas time we connect with our family. We call, we visit, we email, we share memories hopes and dreams. We also share disappointments hurt and betrayal. Christmas is the one time in the year when we are very conscious of family. This is not by accident, it is at the heart of the mystery of Christmas. Salvation comes to us through a family, both the Holy Family and our natural families. This is the reason for great joy!
What did the shepherds and wise men see when they arrived? They saw a family with a baby (Lk 2:16 & Mt 2:11). What did they do? The shepherds spread the news of Great Joy and then praised God and the wise men bowed, adored him and offered gifts.
It is God’s intention to bring salvation to us, in and through a family. We first hear the Good News in and through our families. We learn generosity and sharing in and through our families. We are formed in virtue in and through our families. This is what we celebrate, that God chose to come to us as part of a family, thus making the family a special place of encounter.
NOT LIKE THE HOLY FAMILY
I can hear people saying, bishop my family is not like the Holy Family! Well the Holy Family was a refugee family. They had to run to Egypt to escape Herod. They lived in peril and threat of violence. They were vulnerable and lived in a hostile foreign culture.
Many of our families are nomadic because they cannot pay the rent, or because of domestic violence. Moving from house to house without a fixed place of abode must be very difficult. This Christmas take consolation, Mary and Joseph understand your plight and stand in solidarity with you and say to you, “We were just like you.” This Christmas let us give a challenged family that we know the gift of friendship and support. You see that family is the Holy Family in our midst. That family gives us a reminder of the Christmas story.
We often mistakenly believe that the Holy Family was a nuclear family– Father, mother and son. The Holy Family of Nazareth lived in interconnected dwellings. The children belonged to the household which consisted of several parents. Jesus grew up in an extended family and would have related to his cousins as we relate to brothers and sisters. In the Caribbean we also have the blessing of extended families. This Christmas give special time and attention to the members of your extended family. Pray for them, celebrate their lives and hear the Holy Family say,” We are just like you.”
Many families lose children, by death, to drugs, delinquency or prison. It is the greatest challenge that a parent could face. When you lose a child it rips the heart to pieces. Recently I went to court to support a family whose son did bare ‘foolishness’. We could have lost him! The Joy of getting him back was overwhelming. The Holy Family lost their son and searched for him. They then left their relatives and friends and found him with the doctors of the law in the temple. Can you imagine their pain and relief? Their horror and then their joy? If you have lost a child and that makes this Christmas difficult, hear the Holy Family say to you ,”We are just like you! We lost God’s son!”
Christmas is about family! It is the time of year when we celebrate, laugh, share and give the gift of love, the gift of ourselves and our time Please give the gift of love, appreciation and gratitude to your family this Christmas. Then reach to one other family you know to be struggling and share joy and generosity with them. If we each help one struggling family, what an amazing gift we will give to Jesus this Christmas! Then we will be more like the Holy Family.
(The Most Rev. Dr. Charles Jason Gordon – Roman Catholic Bishop of Bridgetown)