Sunday, December 22, 2013

All I Want for Christmas: The Sunday of Genealogy and (Importance of) Family

The Sunday before Christ's Nativity, the Church appoints the first chapter of the Gospel of St. Matthew to be read at the Divine Liturgy.  It lists all the progenitors of Christ from Abraham to David, from David to Joseph.  Now, even though Christ's human nature (in terms of DNA) did not originate from any of these, as Jesus was a natural child only of Mary and her ancestors, the point is that we celebrate the Lord's consubstantiality with his own creation and celebrate his legal inheritance of David's throne through his earthly father, Joseph.  We confess regularly in the creed and the Divine Liturgy of the Trinity's consubstantilaity among its three persons, but it is at this time of year that we should (although we should do it all year) focus on Christ's consubstaniliaty with His creation, namely us.

This is the main point of this Gospel reading and why it is placed on this Sunday liturgically, but there are any number of ancillary conclusions we can draw from this particular reading.  One of which is this:  the importance of family.  The family was the central unit of every day life. The children in this genealogy were all produced in the husband-wife context (with some exceptions; see Solomon. Note that his mom is not mentioned by name) producing and raising children. Is not even the most iconic picture of this season that of Christ surrounded by his mother and father and others whom He created?  Family is naturally connected with the First Christmas.  Even in the continued secularization of the Christmas holiday, the importance of being close with friends and family is almost universally shared, regardless of one's own religious convictions.  The importance of family has often been used as a reason why people miss the Divine Liturgy or any other service on Christmas Eve/Day, but if the love we show to our family and frienss is even but the faintest shadow of how God has loved His Creation, then I think we should stop throwing our hands up in the air lamenting how people skip church. (aside: I remember one time being told by my priest before I was married that there is no difference between being in church and being with family. I no longer had to choose between the two because the two choices lead to the same path.  Post for another time:  When St. Paul says that the single man is concerned for God and the married man for his wife, he is not saying that one should be preferred over the other.  Rather, he is arguing that the two are different means to the same end.  End of digression). 

I didn't get to see this, but my wife did and mentioned it to me.  It's a very sad story from CBS Sunday Morning about a young woman at college who wanted only one thing for Christmas:  A family, specifically parents, even if only for a few hours which she would pay for.  Her life growing up was one of pain.  The only things she can recall are punishments and abuse from a father and the noticeable absence of her mother.  When December came around and heard her friends talk about their holiday plans, it always made her feel out of place as she never had a familyShe took out an ad on Craigslist of all places.  Craigslist has become the go-to place for anything these days, it seems.  And she got a number of responses.  She was even contacted by people who were in the same situation she was. Needless to say, she got what she wanted, even for free. I've embedded the videoclip below. 

So, before we go off condemning people for not coming to church on Nativity or even on Sundays or whenever, but in particular on Christmas, we should remember that family is a wonderful thing, that the gift of family was even given to our Lord who needed it for the purposes of effecting our salvation.  If He needed it, then surely we all do and we should take some time to embrace and celebrate it, even if we do miss church as a result.

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