Today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family - the family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. But it is also the feast of our own families, and just as important, our family right here - the church. 

Our readings today give us different glimpses into what family is and how it works.

In our first reading, Hannah conceived and then dedicated her first born son to God, leaving him there in the temple to be raised. She kept her promise to God, and she understood that her child was a gift, that in fact, all children are a gift from God.

The second reading from the First Letter of John tells us that although we are all many people from many different families, we are all God's children because of God's love for us. We are one family.

In the Gospel we hear that Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem without his parents knowing. After several days they found him, reprimanded him, head back home, and he was obedient to them.

On a personal note, if that had been me, I would have had more than a reprimand! LOL 

Three very different snippets of family. But they are each represented right here with us today.

We are able to love God and one another, because He loved us first. We are His children. We are brothers and sisters because of that love. How do we in turn express that love? By loving others. Not just those that believe the way we believe, or think the way we think. We are to love each and every person.

We are called to be family for those that have no family, friends to those who have no friends.

We are to be Christ to all people, and to see Christ in each and every person. We are to bring that love and fellowship to everyone.

Families are not perfect. They are made up of individual people with their own history, feelings, and insecurities, and sometimes we hurt each other. When that happens, we have to be mature enough to be able to say, "I'm sorry," and then make it right. As we see in the Gospel: Jesus went home and was obedient to his parents.

This feast today represents the entire human family- the individual family unit, the church family, and our world family (yes, every human being on the planet).

As we prepare to close out the year and enter the new, how will you take family with you into the world? 

 

First Reading: Jer 33:14-16

Second Reading: 1 Thes 3:12-4:2

Gospel: Luke 21:25-28, 34-36

 

I remember the first time I had to get up in front of a congregation and sing.  I was applying for the Minister of Music position at the Baptist Church we attended. I was sick to my stomach, my knees were shaking and I couldn’t focus my mind or my eyes on anything.

This wasn’t the first time I had ever been up in front of people. I had been in band and choir for years. But this was the first time, standing up there alone. And, believe it or not, at 15 I was shy, awkward, and very much locked inside my own head.

I was terrified of singing off key, forgetting the words, and looking like an idiot. But I sat there waiting for the time to start the service praying, “Lord, please help! All I want to do is sing for you.”  As the service began and the pianist began the intro to “How Great Thou Art,” I opened my mouth and sang. It wasn’t my best – I was still a nervous wreck. But by the end of the worship service as we were singing “Just as I am,” I realized that I wasn’t singing for me, or them, I was singing to God, for God, and by his strength.

Our Gospel today speaks of fear and why we shouldn’t be afraid of what is to come.  Every generation has experienced trials and tribulations within nature. Hurricanes, Tornados, Tsunami’s, earthquakes, volcanos, floods, drought, and everything in between. Every generation has had its own herald proclaiming the end of the world.

But Jesus tells us very simply, during these times, when these signs happen, stand up straight, keep your chin up and stand firm in the promise made to us, because our redemption is at hand.  This is why we shouldn’t be afraid. Why we shouldn’t fear anything around us. Nothing nature or man can do, can separate us from God’s love. Only we can separate ourselves from God.

None of us want to be separated from God, cut off from his love and mercy. But we find ourselves separated from God when we let our hearts focus on things of this world instead of on things of heaven. The Gospel says “drowsy from carousing and drunkenness.” Yes it means partying and getting drunk all the time. But it also means doing anything that takes us away from doing what we should be doing – bringing the Kingdom of God to those around us.  It also says, “And from the anxieties of daily life.”

I can’t imagine anyone here being able to relate to that, so let me help. Anxieties of daily life – what am I going to wear today? I can’t wear that, I’ve worn that out in public before. What will people think if they see that I don’t have the latest fashions? What will they think if I am not driving the fanciest new car? What will they think if they come over and my carpet isn’t the cleanest or my furniture top of the line, or my dishes don’t match, or they find out my son is gay, or my dog meows instead of barking. On and on and on.

And yes, the daily anxieties of where is the money coming to buy food and pay the bills. I can either pay this bill or get my prescriptions filled. Or I can pay the light bill or the gas bill. These are real and valid concerns. 

But as Christians we have the comfort and the promise that these things are passing. Our hope, our joy, is not contained solely in the here and now. We keep watch and we wait, because our hope, our joy is yet to come.  It will come after this life.

For now we need to be focused on what we can do right here, right now to help God’s Kingdom here on earth grow.

 

What aspects of your daily life hinder your expression of love for God and for your neighbors?

 

What steps can you take this week to help bring Christ’s mercy to all you meet?