A few years ago I received a Christmas catalog that featured a set of snowmen dressed as the Holy Family. The accompanying blurb promised that the trio would restore the true meaning to the season. I dubbed them the “roly-poly Holy Family.”
I suppose that having decorations that at least refer to Jesus, Mary, and Joseph could be considered part of the real reason for Christmas, but snow figures seem to push the boundaries. What’s missing, most of all, is the reality of the Holy Family. These weren’t make-believe characters in a book of fairy tales, but real people who lived through some pretty harrowing times. There were the angelic visits announcing daunting news; the disturbing dreams that roused them from sleep in order to flee a maniacal king who thought nothing of slaughtering innocent babies; and the birth of a child destined to fulfill long-awaited promises of salvation. Theirs was no winter wonderland, but a journey of whole-hearted trust in God for whom “nothing is impossible” (Luke 1:37).
The feast of the Holy Family, usually celebrated on the Sunday following Christmas, marks a time to honor these three flesh-and-blood figures of faith and promise. It is also an occasion to consider the holiness inherent in domestic life. Jesus was born into a family who nurtured, protected, taught, and raised him to adulthood. Although we know little about his life as a youth, it is not hard to picture him doing the same things any well-loved child would do – playing games, learning to read, helping with household chores, moving into larger social circles among his relatives, neighbors, and townspeople. Through it all, Mary and Joseph are there to model what it means to live by faith and to illustrate what makes a family holy.
Use the Feast of the Holy Family (December 30) to plan a family outing. Discuss what makes your family “holy” and what you each admire about the Holy Family.
Look for ways to extend Christmas charity to families in need. Check with your parish social ministry coordinator about programs and projects that provide services and resources for homeless families.