Merry Christmas to all you beloved parishioners and friends! The love of God made manifest in Christ shines anew in the life of believers as we rejoice in this unique event of God becoming one of us. It’s an encounter beyond imagining. The All-powerful God could have chosen a nobler way to enter into the world to save humanity from the chaos of sin and death, but preferred the way of humility. A servant who washes his master’s feet and runs errands is not called humble by the exercise of those functions. But a master who washes his servant’s feet does something extraordinary, and would certainly be called humble. The humility of God shown in Christ re-writes the code for life in His kingdom. We who have become citizens of God’s kingdom through baptism must look at the cold manger, the shepherds and their sheep, the poverty of Mary and Joseph, and understand our vocation to humble Christlike existence. The pilgrims who erected the Church of the Nativity made the entrance door so short that you can only enter on your knees; teaching that we reach Christ only on bended knee, head, and ego.
Christmas is also a feast of the family; first, the Family of God—the Church: with God as our Father, Jesus as our Brother, Mary as our Mother, and Joseph as our model of holiness and obedience to God’s will. In this year of St. Joseph, we are presented with the opportunity to reflect on our families. We should sit together as a family and have an honest discussion about the health of our family, how close-knit we are, how much we mirror the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. I’m sure several are worried about today’s family constructions—like that of Tom, Ted and Tim. Certainly, we are to look upon real families, not the mechanical constructions that society and the courts have forced on us. Yet, God’s love goes to all His children and those who seek Him, even when they find it a daunting struggle to accede to His will.
We hold the Holy Family as an ideal family. And the most important thing we can learn today is that it is important to strive for an ideal. We do have an idealized conception of Jesus, Mary and Joseph and it wouldn’t be wrong to ask us to live up to that ideal. That is why our Christmas cards with the idyllic nativity scene of the Holy Family, the animals, the manger, the angels and wise men stand out this season. Do you put up the Christmas tree and the paraphernalia around the tree and not worry to live like the Holy Family? Then, tell yourself the truth: You are a hypocrite. We must strive to be holy like the members of that family, obedient to the will of God like the animal companions of Jesus at his birth, detached from material things as represented in the manger, rejoice and carry the good news like the angels, and follow the star of divine wisdom like the wise men who sought out Jesus. The Holy Family stands in contradistinction to many modern families where pride, pleasure, confusion, sinful, unnatural and abominable lifestyles are praised as noble goals.
Lest we forget, life was not completely smooth sailing for the Holy Family. The members experienced the same complexities, uncertainties, messiness, and worries that comprise everyday family living. For example, in the Gospel, we could see Mary at least mildly upset, and her words carried some fire: “Son, why have you done this to us?” Like a typical 14 year old who wants to celebrate his coming of age, Jesus answers: “Why were you searching for me?” It would be quite alright to read the theological import of the statement by Jesus, as an invitation to a daily purposive search for Him. But perhaps, it didn’t sound quite theological to Mary and Joseph who for three days had anxiously searched the entire neighborhood for their lost son. However, like the Holy Family, we should quickly resolve our misunderstandings and continue to grow in wisdom, age and grace before God and man. Our affiliation with them opens for us a storeroom of grace. Merry Christmas!
Fr. Chukwudi Jo Okonkwo