In the after-glow of Christmas day, we get this brief window into the life of the Holy Family. Jesus, Mary and Joseph… each with very distinct roles… but each united in God’s service. Closer than any team, they are a family on a mission… even though the dimensions of that mission still remain unclear to them. What is clear is God’s constant call to service and their selfless response.
We don’t get to pick our relatives. But we do get to pick our family. Relatives can share common ancestors, a marriage contract, a DNA profile, an address. A family shares mutual commitment, common values and unconditional love. A family is a deliberate labor of love, not a coincidence of lineage. God’s plan calls for us to live as a family bonded and inspired by his love. Man’s pride calls for us to live for ourselves, divided by our own self-centered, spiritual isolation. God’s plan is better.
While the difference is hardly subtle, far too many fail to make a distinction between family and relatives. They are lonely strangers related to other lonely strangers. While they may share living space, they have entirely separate commitments, priorities and agendas. From the quantity and quality of their communications, they might as well speak different languages.
You can blame the rift on economics or the internet, computer games or rap lyrics. I’m told that fifty years ago, they blamed it all on television and Rock’n Roll. Sixty years back, the culprits were comic books and the radio. While these may be symptoms, they are not causes. You can trace it all to the empty place at the table…the forgotten brother…the misplaced model of love. Jesus has been crowded out of the family. He’s become the inconvenient cousin we’re obliged to visit on holidays. He’s the soft-touch uncle we only go to when we’re in deep trouble. He’s the angry patriarch reminding us that we messed up again.
Wherever we’ve left him, Jesus is not where he ought to be – the focus of our family—a palpable presence giving a common purpose and direction to our daily lives. Don’t expect Jesus to just show up uninvited at your table. He’s not Banquo’s ghost. As individuals and as a family, we have to ask him in every day.
But when we find him… when we welcome him… what a difference he makes. With Jesus in the living room, at the kitchen table… even in the bedroom… our family is complete. In his presence we see each other more clearly, more kindly. It’s easier to give and forgive. We can overlook more readily. We can understand more fully.
I’m reminded of a golden-oldie from the 50’s…“The family that prays together stays together.” It worked then, it will work now. It’s a time-tested, guaranteed, winning formula for happy families. Who gives the guarantee? Jesus does: For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I. The power of Christ in our midst is the most transformational force the world has ever known. With him all things are possible – hope, meaningful sharing, mutual forgiveness, growth and healing. Without him, we might as well ignore the strangers we live with, flick on some great big flat-screen, settle back and try to get through life with as little inconvenience as possible. The choice is ours. Relatives or family? Choose Jesus. Choose family. And the blessings will cascade for you and yours. It works for young families, older families, extended families.
Start today. With God’s help, it’s easier than you think. First, go to Jesus in humble, private prayer. Admit your shortcomings and dependence on him. Ask for the courage to get started. Make room in your day for family time with Jesus…maybe before, after or even during a meal. Keep it simple. Tell your family where you want to go with this. Ask for their input and their help. Ask Jesus for his help with a specific family problem. Have your Bible handy. Share some scriptural inspiration. Be loving. Be humble. Be honest… patient… and faithful. Set up a schedule for prayer and sharing. Don’t sermonize. Candidly share how you need to change and improve. Prayer is also listening to God and to each other. Every day keep praying. Keep sharing. Keep listening. It works if you work it. Then get ready to get happy. A family living in Christ’s love is the greatest joy this side of heaven.
The Reverend David Sellery, Episcopal Priest, Author, and Coach. Fr. Sellery presently serves as Priest-in-Charge, St. John’s Salisbury, CT. Fr. Sellery has excelled at using new media to increase outreach beyond the Church doors via his website, blog posts, and podcasts.
By Neithan90 (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons