When the shepherds arrived, they came upon a scene not unlike that in many nativity sets: Mary and Joseph, gazing adoringly (and sleepily, no doubt!) at the manger between them. This holy family, at once biological and chosen, encourages us to think with compassion and divine creativity about our own definitions of family and belonging.
Jesus, in both his name and his very being, was known and loved well before his conception, birth, or ritual entry into the community. This heir of God and adopted son was known and loved deeply and given a mission and purpose in the world.
We also, as heirs of God’s mysteries, and as adopted children, are named, commissioned, and blessed, not because of our lineage, our ancestry, or our family affiliation, but because God is love. Through the infant Christ, we can see and know ourselves to be part of the family of God for which we and all people have been chosen.
This and all holiday seasons carry many cultural expectations and assumptions about families and family gatherings. How can our communities of faith, in this season and beyond, take special care to notice, include, and be transformed by the gifts of those who are single; those who are childless by choice or circumstance; those who are separated, divorced, or widowed; multigenerational households; same-gender couples and families; those who find family in places of congregate living; those who find kinship with communities of grief, recovery, or shared interest? How can we recognize and care for those in our communities who need to be embraced, included, seen, and loved for who God created them to be?
May the nontraditional nature of the holy family help us recognize familial love in all relationships where belonging is fostered, trust is built, encouragement is given, and joys and griefs alike are shared. May we see ourselves and all God’s children as kin and kindred: one body, with its many diverse and beautiful members.
Devotional message and art based on the readings for January 1st, reprinted from sundaysandseasons.com.
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