“The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy
in each other’s life.
Rarely do members of one family grow up under the same roof.”
Maybe it was simply because it was our first Christmas away from home, but this year I found myself particularly aware of distance (both geographical and emotional) in relationships.
As I was talking on the phone to my youngest brother in the United Kingdom, even he remarked, “Well, now you know how it felt for me – that first Christmas in a strange country. Except, you cheated – your whole family moved with you.”
As I ponder those words “your whole family” in light of today’s texts, I am amazed at how God has enlarged my capacity for love and my experience of joy through the blessing of an extended family accumulated over the years:
a family born not of blood;
but of shared belief and service,
of stories offered and received – some light with laughter,
some heavy yet somehow lightened by the telling;
of conflicts worked through and forgiveness offered;
of – as Richard Bach puts it – respect and joy in each other’s life,
no matter how far away we may be or when last we talked.
What were your thoughts, your feelings about “family” over this sacred season?
Who did you reach out to?
Who reached out to you?
Who did you long to hear from, but didn’t?
Who are you missing?
Who do you feel physically or emotionally distant from at the moment?
At the height of Jesus‘ ministry, his mother and brothers try to visit him, but the room in which he is teaching is packed with people and there is no easy way for them to gain access to him.
So they send in a messenger with the news that they are waiting to see him; confident that when he hears about their arrival, he will wrap things up quickly to spend time with them.
Instead, what follows is a radical act of inclusion as Jesus stretches his hand out towards his disciples and commands,
“Look closely. These are my mother and brothers. Obedience is thicker than blood. The person who obeys my heavenly Father’s will is my brother and sister and mother”
Matthew 12:49-50 (The Message).
His declaration may well have hurt or offended the members of his “blood” family as they waited outside for him, yet it is a truly authentic statement for the Son of God-who-nurses-Her-people (Isaiah 49:15).
As we enter into a shared life with God, we enter also into a life shared with people who we may not know very well or (as sometimes sadly happens) who we may not even like very much but to whom we are bound by obedience to the God who has formed us and who uses us to “tell the prisoners, ‘Come out of your prison’” and “tell those in darkness, ‘Come into the light’” (Isaiah 49:9) …
… and those newly liberated,
new to life in the light,
in turn, become brothers and sisters along life’s journey
for the extension of Christ’s kingdom is not a campaign aimed at conquest
but a grace-filled invitation into an ever extending family
formed by the Father’s own hand,
liberated by the love of the Son,
and held together by the Spirit of Truth who testifies to our belonging.
In looking towards the new year, who are the people that God is calling you …
… to love?
… to forgive?
… to journey more closely alongside?
… to invite into the family?