Dear Friends, I write this on the second day of Christmas–remember, keep celebrating for all of the 12 days and the celebration can be as small as doing just one thing that shows the spirit of this lovely time of year–perhaps a call to a friend or family member that you know could use one–a sharing of something that is special to you with another, thus showing a bit more of who you truly are. If the technology works for me this morning, I hope to send you a musical recording that one of my sisters in ministry shared that is hauntingly beautiful. Included here then are the readings for Sunday and my homily and other prayers for your Sunday reflections. Have peace, love and joy–the best gifts of Christmastime and please don’t hesitate to call, 507-429-3616 or email, email@example.com if I can be of help, in any way to you. Pastor Kathy
The shepherds hastened to Bethlehem, where they found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger.
Let Us Pray
O God, Creator of all, you ordered the earth to bring forth life and crowned its goodness by creating the family of humankind. In history’s moment when all was ready, you sent Jesus to dwell in time, obedient to the laws of life in our world. Teach us the sanctity of human love, show us the value of family life, and help us to live in peace with all that we may share in your life forever. We ask this in Jesus’ holy name, Amen.
- Sirach 3: 2-6, 12-14
- Colossians 3: 12-21
- Luke 2: 22-40
My friends, being that my small family of three “bubbles”—a total of 7, in this time of COVID is gathered at our home, and having not a lot of extra time (but, I’m loving it!), I decided to use my homily of three years ago, with a few updates for today. I think it still rings true!
One of my favorite things to do during the Christmas Season is to sit in front of the Christmas tree and look at the lights along with the decorations and think about where each of them came from. The most special ones are from family and friends over the years and speak to those relationships, for that is really, what Christmas is all about—relationships. And of course, the primary relationship is between God and us and God’s generosity in becoming one-with-us, Emmanuel!
We name today, “Holy Family Sunday” in deference to the earthly family of Jesus—Mary and Joseph and more than likely, other children who came to this couple due to the love they shared with and for each other. Jesus, our brother, most assuredly, was raised within a family of much love and caring to have allowed him to give back so much love to the world in which he lived and grew “in wisdom and grace.” Nothing comes from nothing,” an old movie line goes.
This Sunday is for families because really, all families are holy, as a good friend reminded me just recently—or, at least have the possibility of being, “holy.” I would dare say, most, if not all families begin with love, because that is what is best in all of us—we are, in fact, hard-wired for this best of gifts. Life sometimes takes families in different directions, but at their beginnings, love is there.
Love isn’t always easy, either within families, or within the greater world and that is why, as we talked about on Christmas Eve, it is so important to live, “in the present.” This week’s Scriptures do, in fact, call us to do just that—live in the present. In the best of times—we can do what Sirach asks in regard to caring for our families—showing respect, kindness, love, understanding and mercy. As we attempt to live in the present, it will mean that we have to let go of past hurts and just keep looking and reaching out toward the good, and expecting to see the good in those that we may have difficulties with in life. The importance of the past is to learn from it, taking its lessons into the present where we can effect change.
Our families, for good or bad, have a deep effect on each of us, for this is where we came from. Most parents love their children fiercely and in the best of times, parents let their children know of their love for them. In some cultures, it was thought that letting children know this one special truth, that their parents love them, would in fact, spoil them. In actuality, the opposite is really true—the “not telling,” or showing the love, dampens the relationship. We are each in need of knowing that we are loved, that we make a difference—this year more than in most among so much that has been very difficult. But being that this is Christmas time, I would be remiss if I did not say, among those things that were difficult and at times, not even good, that there was much that was very good—I will let you fill in what has affected you in both areas.
Paul tells us beautifully today, in his letter to the Colossians, what this love looks like: clothing yourselves with heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Each of us friends, have these gifts, because each of us came from God and God, we know, is good. Anything we encounter in life that is not good, is not of God.
Paul continues in his letter today speaking of heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, saying that over this, we must put on love, which binds the rest and makes them perfect. He also instructs us to be thankful and to do whatever we do, in Jesus’ name. Think what a different world it would be if we did everything in Jesus’ name! There would be much that we would think twice about doing! Finally, Paul cautions us to take our relationships seriously—couples in love should avoid bitterness; if we are blessed with children; we shouldn’t nag them, less they lose heart.
One year, in the past, I came upon ten suggestions for the New Year from Jim Wallis of Sojourner Magazine. I was struck by his first suggestion—that we who claim to be “Christian,” or followers of a different religious group, would basically take what we believe and hold it in one hand, and the newspaper ( or our world) in the other. For us, that would mean, the words and actions of our brother, Jesus must be in our thoughts, the very fiber of our beings and every action we do must reflect that memory. The acronym, WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) is a question that should always be close in our consciousness as we live our lives.
Our readings for this Holy Family Sunday conclude today with the beautiful gospel from Luke telling the story of Mary and Joseph presenting the baby Jesus at the temple in Jerusalem as prescribed by the law. So what should this story tell us? First, it tells us that Joseph and Mary followed the dictates of the law that guided their lives. God had been faithful and it was their place to be faithful too!
Secondly, it is important for us to remember the context within which this gospel took place—Mary and Joseph and the baby were, “on the run” as the baby’s life was in danger from one who was into his power and control, yet they made the decision that this point of righteousness must be done. Presenting Jesus at the temple was a must and it was within that action that their very life’s purposes were confirmed—this child put into their safe-keeping, was the “Messiah of God,” as was proclaimed by Simeon and Anna.
As we reflect on the lives of Mary and Joseph; it seems logical, or as my grandson would say, using one of his “new” words, “obvious,” that there must have been times in the everyday-ness of life that they doubted all that was ahead of their sweet baby, so this confirmation was so important and one that, as Scripture says, Mary “would treasure in her heart.’
The more we can allow these Scriptures to come alive for us, the more the stories will affect us and allow us to live in like manner. There will be times in all of our lives that we will doubt God’s presence much like Mary and Joseph doubted, but that is the time for us to go deeper, to remember all that we believe in, all that we professed to at our confirmations, that renewed our baptismal promises made for us as babies and then move forward on the words of Jesus, that he would never leave us, but be with us—always! Peace and love and a blessed New Year, 2021!
Prayers of the Faithful
Response: “Hear us, Jesus our Light.”
- O God, at this Christmas season—help us to remember what a gift you have given us in Jesus entering into our humanity, we pray—Response: “Hear us, Jesus our Light.”
- O God, be with all elected officials—instill within each one, the wisdom of your Spirit to lead their people well. Be with the leaders in our country to work toward unity for the good of all the people, we pray—Response: “Hear us, Jesus our Light.”
- Loving God, give each of us health of body, mind and spirit–especially those struggling with Covid—give each one your strength and wonderful gift of peace, we pray—Response: “Hear us, Jesus our Light.”
- O God, we are grateful for the spirit of generosity and love that we experience at this time of year—give us the desire and strength to be generous and loving people throughout the entire year, we pray— Response: “Hear us, Jesus our Light.”
- O God, as we come to the end of a year and look forward to a new one with new beginnings, let us strive to be people of peace, not conflict—help us to remember that Jesus has glorified our humanity by his presence in it and help us to treat people and our world accordingly, we pray—Response: “Hear us, Jesus our Light.”
- Loving God, be with each of us today giving us what we most need in life, we pray—Response: “Hear us, Jesus our Light.”
- In thanksgiving for the graces bestowed on our community, All Are One, during 2020, continue to give us welcoming hearts to be open to all who come to us, and inspire us in new ways to reach out this next year, we pray—Response: “Hear us, Jesus our Light.”
- Loving Jesus, be with all families who have lost loved ones this week, this past year—especially from COVID, give them your peace, help each to learn how to be a family anew, we pray—“Hear us, Jesus our Light.”
***Let us pray for the silent petitions on our hearts—pause, then response
Let Us Pray
Loving God, the gift of Christmas is love. We thank you for your great love for us in sending us Jesus, our Brother and Friend. Help us to model our lives after his, selflessly giving to those in need, being people of truth, faith and trust in your word. Let our lives reflect mercy, goodness and joy to all that we meet. Help us as a faith community to realize our responsibility to always be welcoming of all who come to our table—help us to be good listeners of other’s stories respecting their journeys to you even if the path they take is different from ours. Bless us, keep us, and hold us in your love—we ask all this of you, Creator, Savior, Spirit—one God, living and loving us, forever and ever, Amen.
Let Us Pray—Again my friends, we can’t be together today, but as always, we know that Jesus is always with us, even though we can’t share in the bread of the altar.
Prayer of Communion
Loving God, we want to live as the Holy Family did, in peace with you and one another. May our lives, with all its ups and downs, strengthen us to reach out to others in their need . Grant this through Jesus’ wonderful name and the Spirit of us all, Amen.
The musical piece I promised:
Alternate Lyrics by Jennifer Henry…
Mary did you know,that your ancient wordswould still leap off our pages?
Mary did you know,that your spirit songwould echo through the ages?
Did you know that your holy cry would be subversive word,that the tyrants would be trembling when they know your truth is heard?
Mary did you know,that your lullabywould stir your own Child’s passion?
Mary did you know,that your song inspiresthe work of liberation?
Did you know that your Jubilee is hope within the heart of all who dream of justice, who yearn for it to start?
The truth will teach, the drum will sound, healing for the painThe poor will rise, the rich will fall. Hope will live again.
Mary did you know,that we hear your voicefor the healing of the nations?
Mary did you know,your unsettling crycan help renew creation?
Do you know, that we need your faith,the confidence of you,May the God that you believe in,be so true.
Attachments areaPreview YouTube video “Mary, Did You Know?” (Lowry & Greene; alternate lyrics by Jennifer Henry) 12/22/20 #VirtuousPub“Mary, Did You Know?” (Lowry & Greene; alternate lyrics by Jennifer Henry) 12/22/20 #VirtuousPub