'Jesus grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on Him’. Luke 2:40
As we end 2023, and look forward to 2024, as we perhaps think about New Year’s Resolutions the Church gives us role models for us to try and copy. The role models we’re given for this week are the Holy Family, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, not so much as individuals but as a family. I know this is a high standard, we know that Jesus is perfect, and Mary and Joseph are saints, however, just as we aim at a high standard when we choose professional sports people, or leading politicians, or even when we seek to copy one of our parents, in the same way it is good to have role models in the Christian life who set a high standard. Today we are given the Holy Family; so what do we learn from looking to the Holy Family as our role models? Well, three things.
First, that family is the place where we develop our faith. Currently Amelie, my four year-old daughter, is learning to read. At school, of course, she has lessons but most of her reading is done at home after all she spends more time with her parents than with her teachers and her teachers have a lot more kids. So if Amelie is to read well she must learn and practice with us with her family. In a similar way, children’s faith is learned—primarily—at home. Sunday School can help, a Church school can help, but the best chance children have to develop a strong faith is at home with their family. Now, people can come to faith in other ways, of course, I came to faith through reading when I was twenty-three; but most people who have a faith developed it at home before the age of eighteen with, and in, their family. We see this is in our Gospel reading (Luke 22:39-40):
‘When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord,
they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth.
And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.’
Parents and grandparents as you think about 2024, as, perhaps, you make some New Years Resolutions, how about thinking through how you can strengthen your family’s time with God? How about setting some time each day for age-appropriate bible reading, for family prayers, and maybe read about some saints together as a family, helping us to be inspired by some other Christian role models. Just as you, hopefully, prioritise time together as a family, so make sure you also have time with God, as a family, so that your children can see your faith in action. Modelling Faith, that’s the first way that the Holy Family is a role model for us all.
The second way that the Holy Family is a model to us is that we don't always get to choose the people we are called to love. In our families we all have people who are strange, the weird, and the annoying; if you can't think of one, it could be you! Kids you get to choose your friends, you get to choose who you date, choose who you marry, however, family is one of the few places where we don't get a choice, and yet still we’re called to love everyone in our family. Now when you think of Mary and Joseph you might think—and you’d probably be right—that they would be easy to love; but what about Jesus’ uncles, what abut His cousins? I bet there were some strange relatives. I bet someone in Jesus’ family was grumpy. I bet there was a black sheep or two… in fact we know there were. At the beginning of both Matthew’s and Luke’s Gospel is Jesus’ family tree, and boy are there some strange people, awkward people, bad people listed. Jesus had to learn to love all those in His family not just the nice ones. So who in your family is hard to get on with? Who is a bit weird and you’d maybe rather not see. Christmas is a time when we come together —especially with extended family—and we’re reminded of all of our strange relatives. So now is a great time to think of who you need to work on loving? Who do most of your family ignore, or would not invite to Christmas if they could? Maybe this year—maybe make it a New Year’s Resolution—to invite that person over more often, get to know them, befriend them. In the process you will grow, and maybe you’ll understand that person a little better and appreciate them a little bit more. Learning to love the odd balls… that’s the second way the Holy Family helps us.
Our third and final way in which the Holy Family helps us is by letting us join them. When Jesus gets older He tells us that if we follow Him, then we will become His brothers and sisters. Jesus tells us that if we trust Him Mary will become our mother, and Jesus’ real Dad—God Himself—will be our Father. In other words, we get to be in Jesus’ family. Now that is an awesome privilege and we need to try and live up to it…but it also means that in this family—which is Jesus’ family—we also include every other Christian all around the world, including here at St George’s and All Saints’. Look around, here are your brothers and sisters. If you need help, you should be able to ask anyone here. If someone else needs help, you should be willing to lend a hand. Also, remember our second point, that in a family we don't get to pick who we love, well it’s the same in Jesus’ family, the Church, you don't get to pick, we just need to love everyong. You may have found some awkward people in church; you may have found some annoying people in church; you may find some people you’d rather not get to know, but as family we don't get to choose. If they’re in the Christian family, if they’re in Jesus’ family, if they’re in the Church, then you are called to love them and help them. How about adding that to our New Year’s resolutions?
I’m sure—if you’re anything like me—there are lots of ways that we can improve in helping faith to grow in our family, in showing kindness even to the awkward members of our family ?and in loving our Church family. So perhaps there are one or two things we can each commit to do this coming year which will help our ?faith and our love to grow. Let’s pray that when we come to think about the Holy Family again next year we will be able to see ways in which God has helped us to live up to their example just a little bit more. Amen (from Fr Mike).