What Makes the Family Holy
We speak of the "Holy Family" this time of year. We remember a story of a young woman away from home, great with child, forced to give birth in humble circumstance. We speak of her simplicity and faithfulness. We speak of her fiancé, not understanding how he found himself in such circumstances himself, but trusting the word of an angel that his job in that moment was to lean in, listen up, and awaken to an enormously difficult and world-creating task—to assure the safety of these two, when the world was closing in.
Ok, let's grant the angels. Let's grant the shepherds coming by to take a look, and being overwhelmed. Let's grant that the family sat there for a couple of weeks, when strangers from foreign lands and foreign religions found the place and paid their own respects. Let's grant all of that. But at the base of it, the baby was as vulnerable as any baby--or even more. The mother was as exhausted and joyful and afraid as any mother giving birth away from home and in some level of poverty--or even more. The father was as anxious and energetic and resolved to do whatever was necessary to make a way--or even more.
The striking thing about this story--at least to me--is not the attestations to God's glory, but the contradictions of God's glory. It's not the star. It's not the heavenly words. It's not the recognition and realization. It's the stable. It's the intrigue and terror and wonder and fear and acceptance and more. It's a refugee family caught up in a situation they couldn't control and yet doing what's needed and hoping against hope. It's God at work . . . even today.
Can we live in a world such as ours and not see the Holy Family escaping Aleppo?
Can we live in a world such as ours and not see the Holy Family on a boat in the Mediterranean between Libya and the coast of Italy?
Can we live in a world such as ours and not see the Holy Family in a refugee camp in the Bethlehem of today?
Can we live in a world such as ours and not see the Holy Family waiting on the border for a way in?
Can we live in a world such as ours and not see the Holy Family in a tent outside of Port Au Prince?
Can we live in a world such as ours and not see the Holy Family in our own living rooms, too?
Can we live in a world such as ours and not see the Holy Family as our relatives--no matter where?
It is our privilege as people who know this story to hear it again, and let it become a part of us if we will. This isn't easy. But this gives a joy deeper than any we can ever know. And it also gives us work to do ourselves.