The Christmas carol “O Come, All Ye Faithful”was written more than 300 years ago. For more than three centuries this hymn has been sung in all languages where the Christian faith is lived. In the hymn we hear these words, “Come ye, o come ye to Bethlehem.” Since only a very, very small percentage of those who sing the song can ever actually go to Bethlehem … and yet, each year we sing and we hear the word, “come ye to Bethlehem.”
So, in the eyes of our mind, with the vision of our heart, let’s go to Bethlehem …. not as if seeing a movie on a screen …. but let’s go to Bethlehem, let’s be present to the sights and sounds of the events surrounding the birth of our Savior. Let’s be present with the characters surrounding the place where our God became one with us, and one like us. imagine spiritually that you are there …. you are a part of what is really happening.
What might you see? What might you feel? What might you hear?
> Do you see Joseph …. and Mary …. and the child Jesus? Do you see the family into which Jesus was born? Think about this family.
> Certainly, they are a family obedient to civil law and to the call of God. They are there because they were following the requirement to register for the census. Even though it was not very convenient at this point of pregnancy to go for the census …. but still, they went. They were in a family way by means that clearly puzzled them …. pregnant and not yet married … pregnant they heard with the savior …. grappling with this for 9 months, they still must have been puzzled and even afraid. yet, they went forth to do what they were called to do by God while living rather ordinary lives. A couple of faith who 12 years laterwe see taking Jesus to Jerusalem for the Feast of Passover. [Luke 2:41-52] And then, they get separated from him … and like real parents, we hear them saying, “we have been looking for you with great anxiety.”
> do you see a family of wealth or a family doing the best they could with what they had? For me, I see a family in love with one another and caring for each other …. to be where they were, meant they had no special status. Unable to utilize the services of Expedia or Travelocity, they had no reservations. There means of travel got them there just in time. A family rich in love.
> Since we are there and others are around them, there is something about them that attracts others. There is something special about them that pulls others in. They seem mysteriously connected to others. A family of shared life.
> we see a mom and dad gazing on the new life given to them and wondering what the future was to hold for him and for them ….a family full dreams and hopes.
On this feast of the Holy Family we are reminded that not only did God come among us, he came into the world as part of a relationship …. part of a family.
With a new year clearly before us, at a time when many will make resolutions, we have a chance to not only resolve, but a moment to cherish our relationships, to treasure those who care for us and allow us to care for them, but we can also plan — with God’s help — to make our families even stronger.
There are no perfect families. There are no families without concerns. There are no families without “issues to deal with”. There are families made up of imperfect human beings. As people of faith though …. we seek to be better and stronger — to work through our issues and to face our problems.
Don’t you think God is trying to teach us something? Born as a baby, into a family, growing in faith, age, and wisdom in relationship to others, going to temple, learning the trade of carpentry, experiencing the death of Joseph, caring for a widowed mother, accepting a call to ministry ……God is telling us that we worship a God who knows what we know, who walked the road we walk.
As we look around us in Bethlehem, we see people of all ages — of all races — of all nationalities — these too are part of the family of Jesus — these people are also part of our family — they are gazing on the Holy Family and wanting from them the same things we want …. stronger faith to help with the challenges of life.
They want to love and be loved as they are for who they are. Families do there best to love one another as they are …. and not as we wish them to be. Love us brought us to where we are and love will bring others to a fuller life. Who do we love easily? Who are we having a tough time loving?
Those around us want to be known and to know others. Those around us want to belong to someone and to something …..people today, and always, want life to be shared. With whom are we sharing life? How much of ourselves do we share with those we love? Have we built walls that are keeping us apart. Now is the day to begin removing the barriers.
Are there dreams and hopes for you and your family? Is there more of life to be lived? Is there more to do? With what you have, what dreams can you build? What hopes can you fulfill?
Our reading from Colossians [3:12-21] could be taped on our bathroom mirror as a morning reflection:
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. And over all these, put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were called in one body. And be thankful.
We must now leave Bethlehem and be here in the moment …. with those who are a part of our everyday. With them we journey through life and hopefully into eternal life. Some in our family are those with whom we are related by blood. Some in our family are people of our faith. Some of our family are chosen — we have chosen them and they have chosen us. We walk side by side — let us be one.