Homily – Holy Family Sunday

Friends, this is the last time the homily will go out by email–going forward it will be on the website and you will need to sign on to allareonechurch.org to get it going forward. Thanks so much! –Pastor Kathy


My friends, each year the feast day of the Holy Family comes on the first Sunday after Christmas and it seems well-placed in our church year.  We have just remembered the birth of our brother Jesus in Bethlehem—a poor, backwater town, known for little else except as the birthplace of King David, who also began life in an insignificant way as a shepherd.

Our God makes it clear from the beginning that this graced life of Jesus will not be about position and power, but about time, place and action. We get the message through his lowly birth and the circumstances of him and his holy family living as refugees in his first years, literally running for their lives, of just who he will be coming to serve.  And for all the Christmas cards and greetings that proclaim this a season of peace, love and joy—we know that our brother Jesus will struggle his entire adult life in ministry to help his followers understand that it wasn’t an earthly kingdom that he came to establish—one that would overthrow the powers-that-be, but a kin-dom of love, care, mercy, justice and equality for all.

Our faith teaches us that Jesus was fully human and fully divine and when we look for guidance from him; we must look at both aspects completely so as to truly understand who it is that we say we follow so as to emulate him in our lives of loving-action.

The humanity of Jesus and the life into which he was born is only too obvious from the Christmas Scriptures shared this week.  This was a poor family—[they] “laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn.”  Scriptures don’t tell us this, but the human heart knows that Mary and Joseph were a couple in love—that, is a given, because they couldn’t have raised the man that Jesus came to be had they not been a couple who loved deeply.  To separate the human Jesus from the Jesus who was divine and the experience of each element would be to make null and void the miracle of Christmas—Emmanuel-God-with-us.

Marjorie Holmes, who writes so beautifully of that first Christmas in TWO FROM GALILEE  says that God chose Mary and Joseph to be Jesus’ earthly parents primarily because they already loved each other. Love goes a long way to get people through the bumps in the road of life.  The outdated theology that depicts Joseph as a caretaker husband and father and wants to put such emphasis on Jesus’ parents living a celibate, married life is simply silly and not of God.  To have the goodness, the comfort, the physical closeness of a partner for the journey is part and parcel of what made Jesus’ earthly family, holy.

It was through his humanity and his earthly experience in the home that Mary and Joseph provided, complete with daily examples of love-in-action that Jesus was then able to show us, his earthly brothers and sisters on a larger scale, how we are to love as the God of us all intended.

My friends, this is all so simple, yet in its simplicity, profound. Loving well is the hardest thing any of us will do in our lifetime. Now that may sound strange when we have just come through a time of being with family and friends and hopefully physical expressions of love. And while we may still be basking in the goodness of warm times and moments with loved ones; we all know that true love isn’t always easy.

I am thinking of the “tough love” that our daughter Eryn and son-in-law, Adam have had to give this last while getting our grandson, Elliot to go to bed and sleep enough to meet his needs to grow “in wisdom and grace” and their need for rest as well. If they didn’t love him in the best sense, and each other; they wouldn’t have the stamina to give him the tough love that he needs now.

Several of you in our community have lost life partners this past year—talk about “tough love.” Common sense would tell us to never love another enough to be hurt by the ultimate loss of them, but the trade-off is to have missed all the love that relationship provided along the way—making us into the people we are as a result. For those who have lost life partners this year, may the good memories surround you now and the sadness be less and less.

Jesus’ life calls us to reflect on his humanity on this Holy Family Sunday, but it likewise calls us to reflect on his divinity and how the two came together to make him the one we say we follow.  I believe the miracle of the two, humanity and divinity existing together so perfectly in Jesus of Nazareth is the model we are each called to. How that ultimately happens, I don’t know, but perhaps when we live as Paul instructs us today in his letter to the Colossians, that we:

[Clothe ourselves with heartfelt compassion, with kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  That we bear with one another; forgive whatever grievances we have against one another—forgive as God has forgiven us and above all else, we put on love, which binds the rest together and makes them perfect], then perhaps we unite the human with the divine.

The Holy Family calls each of us in our families to live as they did, keeping our eyes on what is most important—simply put—the love.  Will it always be easy—no, it won’t, but it will always be rich because we can only measure the result by how much we have loved.  If we have loved well, selflessly for the most part, then even if all doesn’t turn out as we had hoped, we know that we chose the best in the end.

Friends, may each of you find love, joy and peace within family—however you find it in this blessed season. Amen? Amen!