Reflection for the First Sunday of Christmas, Feast of the Holy Family, Year A
If we could sum up the logic of the liturgical calendar in one word, the word would be Christ. It makes sense then that Christmas is the season of Joy, because we celebrate Jesus’ new born presence in the here-and-now of our lives.
It can be a great downer when Christmas comes and we’re not finding that joy, here and now. We may just find the opposite. We might even find chaos, instead of joy. What does the liturgy for the first Sunday of Christmas offer to console us?
This year for Christmas my wife and I decided to make personalized photo-cubes for our parents, siblings, and all our nieces and nephews – 21 in all. Everyone got a black bag with their name on it, in each bag was a black box, and in each box there were six cubes that popped out of the box when they opened it.
We pasted four individualize pictures on each cube. That’s four pictures, times six boxes, times twenty-one loved ones – mathematically, a unique labor of love! (504 pictures on 126 boxes, but who’s counting?).
We waited for the first wave of gift wrap shredding frenzy to abate before we handed out the bags and asked everyone to open their gift at the same time – amazingly it worked! Organized Christmas Chaos!
The beauty of this gift is not just that it surprises the first time you open it and you can reload the box and do it again and again (for pictures!) but that it’s like a personal 3-D photo album of each person. They can display the boxes on their shelves or store the memory away and pull it out whenever they want.
Today’s liturgy presents a very similar picture. It’s hard to imagine the Holy Family having much time to bask in joy amidst the chaotic circumstances of their lives. Sure St. Joseph must have felt some reassurance with visits from the Shepherds and Wise Men after Jesus’ birth, far from home in a cave. They had their time for celebration. Then, turn the page…
The psychotic public authority wants to kill his child – indeed, Herod will start randomly killing children very soon. He must take his new family and move to a foreign country, right now!
Considering just those facts, if I have to compare my current state of affairs, or any point in my life for that matter, to that of St. Joseph and the Holy Family, it would be hard for me to say, “What joy they had!” I’d have to say that his life was far more chaotic than mine, at any given moment, for sure. Yet the Holy Family is presented to us as an Icon of JOY!
On the surface level, you have to look at the Gospel reading for this Sunday and think, “I don’t get this!” What’s kind of liturgical logic is this?
Don’t we look at our lives, fairly often and say, “I don’t get this?” I do. Quite a lot.
Now, imagine Saint Joseph pulling out a photo album of the Holy Family – or some of those pop-up-out-of-the-box-photo-cubes we were just talking about. What do they see but fragments of joy?
No pictures of the tyrant Herod – no longer a worry. The hardships of the past are past. The ordeal of uncertainty in everyday life, which sometimes consumes us, isn’t what life’s about. At Christmas, the presence of family causes us to focus on joy, in the very midst of chaos.
The life of the Holy Family centers around Jesus’ presence that bonds them as a unit and directs the course of their lives. Memories of moments lived together as a family bring peace, joy, and love to life, here-and-now. And so we continue to press on, with this image in mind, forging new and joyful memories for the future.
Isn’t that why we look forward to the chaos of Christmas? Isn’t that why we choose to do it again year after year?