Our family is a mess!
The Christmas Vigil Mass features the Gospel of Matthew (1:1-25). Depending on whether you get the long or short version, you might hear the genealogy of Jesus Christ – a rather long list of the forebears of Jesus, going all the way back to Abraham.
It includes some of the most dysfunctional characters from the Jewish scriptures. Among them are some serious sinners – adultery, deception, murder, theft, idolatry, betrayal…their stories make our modern soap operas look rather tame.
Yet, among this messy family, the Son of God was born. God entered the human family to redeem us and transform our mess into a sacrifice.
Owning our mess
Our family is also messy. Like the forebears of Jesus, we have our fair share of dysfunction and plenty of sinfulness. As parents, we’ve made many mistakes (as our children like to remind us) and as spouses, we are too often selfish, intolerant, or resentful towards the other.
Among our extended family are some magnificent people in whose presence we find life and joy. Others …not so much. We all have different values, perspectives and annoying habits to which, we are sure, we are world-class contributors.
That said, we love gathering as family and look forward to spending time with our nephews and nieces as they emerge into adulthood. Sometimes, it’s like meeting a completely new person because they’ve developed so much since leaving school or starting work. Likewise, we enjoy drawing wisdom from our peers and those who have walked ahead of us.
Living in the mess
It is an important reminder that our redeemer, the Christ-child, was born into a family with an imperfect history and with many challenges ahead. There are many lessons in this, but one we take for this Christmas is to try to be more Christ-like in our own family.
It is too easy to get busy worrying about the world around us and working for the greater good. This is important work but let us not walk past those with whom God has placed us in unique relationship.
It is perhaps a part of human nature that we are often more polite to those we know least: neighbours, parishioners, work colleagues, etc. In contrast, family tends to get the ‘raw us’. Often, this rawness is less than pleasant.
Over the years we’ve noticed that our tolerance for others is closely related to how we as a couple are travelling together. When we’re good together, we are more relaxed and generous in our other relationships.
When we are not, then we tend to be short with others who are close by. We often say that how we are engaging with our kids is a natural barometer of how we are together.
So, as we enter into this period of Christmas celebration, we are choosing to embrace the messiness of our own relationship, take ownership for that, and seek to reconnect… so that we can together be a more Christ-like presence for those we encounter.
And most especially for those in our families who need a bit more from us than something that can be wrapped in paper or served on a plate. Too often, we give things instead of giving ourselves.
Jesus didn’t come to save the perfect – He came to perfect the saved.
At this Christmas time we have a special opportunity to love all our family members. Let us imitate Jesus in rejoicing in the mess.