Merry Christmas! As you are probably aware, the Merry Christmas greeting is a victim of our predominantly secular culture. We use this greeting for weeks leading up to Christmas, but as soon as we close our eyes at the end of our Christmas Day festivities, we all but forget about this greeting, packing it in the closet until next year. But in the Church, the greeting of Merry Christmas is something that continues throughout the Christmas Season, which concludes this year on January 10 with the celebration of the Baptism of the Lord.
During the Christmas Season, we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. Since Jesus chose to enter into our world in the context of the family, the Church wants to draw special attention to this family as she invites us to “imitate them in practicing the virtues of family life and in the bonds of charity.” (Roman Missal, Collect for Feast of the Holy Family).
On this day, in the Office of Readings from the Liturgy of the Hours, the Church provides a reflection given by Pope St. Paul VI when he visited Nazareth, the home of the Holy Family. He describes Nazareth as “a kind of school where we may begin to discover what Christ’s life was like and even to understand his Gospel.” We might hear these words a little differently this year as many of our young people have had the home serve as a school, at least virtually, due to the COVID-19 challenges that we have faced. Hopefully those experiences have not soured us to the prospect of learning in our homes, as the home of Nazareth offers us many lessons upon which to reflect.
In his meditation on Nazareth, the Holy Father proposes three lessons, and I would like to quote the second one, which focuses on what we can learn about family life:
May Nazareth serve as a model of what the family should be. May it show us the family’s holy and enduring character and exemplify its basic function in society: a community of love and sharing, beautiful for the problems it poses and the rewards it brings, in sum, the perfect setting for rearing children – and for this there is no substitute.
Striking is a phrase he uses about family life: “beautiful for the problems it poses.” You do not need me to tell you that family life is often difficult. But can we see that even these problems can be beautiful? We can if we look at them as the Holy Family did, with the eyes of faith, trusting that “all things work for good for those who love God.” (Romans 8:28).
As we conclude our month of reflections related to the Sacrament of Confirmation, we thank God for the Gifts of the Holy Spirit which are increased in the reception of this sacrament. All of these gifts can be at the service of our families in imitating the Holy Family and seeing even the challenges as blessings. Once again, Merry Christmas!