An unconventional Christmas Story

Enough with the angels and tinsel and eggnog. Enough with the pictures of a cute white baby with blue eyes and blond hair. Enough with the precious stories carrying a heavy load of symbolic meaning. Enough!

It’s time to speak the truth about the countercultural significance of this holy family. It’s time to stop pretending they are a family that lives up to the ideals of conservative Christians. For today’s Gospel lesson shows us clearly, this was not your typical first-century Jewish family.

Sure, when Jesus reached an age of twelve years, Mary and Joseph followed Jewish custom and took their son to Jerusalem. But what happens next is not normal.

Mary and Joseph head home, assuming their son is walking with some other part of their extended family. A day out from Jerusalem, they discover that Jesus is missing and rush back to the city. After searching frantically they find him.

“After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.”

Now I don’t know about how your parents would have handled this…situation. But I suspect that your parents ­ like mine ­ would not have responded in the same way as Mary and Joseph.

Which simply goes to prove my point: the Holy Family is not a typical family. In the past few months, we have heard how Mary and Joseph upended gender roles and recast them the name of love. We have heard how Mary and Joseph broke social conventions about courtship and marriage and recast them the name of love. We have heard how Mary and Joseph defied convention and recast their lives the name of love.

Remember, Mary said yes to the Archangel Gabriel’s scandalous suggestion she become pregnant before marrying Joseph – and by someone other than her fiancée.

Remember, Joseph said yes to marrying Mary even though he knew she was pregnant with a child which was not his own.

Remember, Mary sang words of revolution after agreeing to Gabriel’s request. She sang:

“He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly;

he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.”

These are not the words of a meek, mild, and deferential woman.

These are not the actions of a conventional couple.

And that makes sense for Jesus is not a conventional son.

Jesus is – as the anonymous author of Luke writes –amazing. But he’s not amazing because he is conventional. He is amazing because he takes Mary’s revolutionary view of God’s relationship with people and carries it to as a new level.

And what does Jesus call us to do? What revolutionary act does he demand? First, that we love God with all our heart and with all our mind and with all our strength. And second, that we love our neighbor as our self.

Jesus doesn’t call women to live in subservience to men. In his life Jesus defied social expectations, making a place of equal honor for women who followed him.

Jesus doesn’t call us to judge. In his life, Jesus upends the way things are done by sharing table fellowship with outcasts, sinners, and – gasp – even tax collectors.

Jesus doesn’t demand we condemn people who break social conventions. In his life, Jesus warned that people should ‘judge not lest they be judged.’

Jesus doesn’t impose a Puritanical purity code on others. In his life, Jesus never made the law more important that human needs. Rather, if you have two coats and want to follow Jesus you are to give your extra coat away.

And Jesus isn’t one of those who wants to condemn people for being LGBTQ+. Words like ‘homosexual’ or ‘lesbian’ or ‘gay’ don’t appear in our Bible. They are terms coined in the modern era, words reflecting a way of looking at life which is far from the way first-century people understood their lives.

The Jesus we hear about at the Temple today doesn’t know his place – which is surely not spending three days arguing with Israel’s best and brightest scholars at the Temple in Jerusalem.

Jesus is willing to break social expectations to embody the power of love.

Jesus is ready to upend our lives to help us embody the power of love.

But first we have to open the door, we have to ask him in, we have to make time to hear his voice.

This Christmas season, let us give ourselves the gift of opening our hearts and lives to welcome Jesus into our life.

Maybe we do this by making it to church more Sundays each month. Or maybe we adopt a spiritual rule of life as we discussed during the four Sundays of Advent. Or maybe we budget a few dollars a week and buy take-out meals for people who stand hungry on San Francisco’s streets. Or maybe we commit to a daily meditation break or prayer time.

It is hard to be open to God if we don’t stop to listen, if we keep ourselves so busy we never give ourselves a moment of time for contemplation or silence or reflection.

So, on the is first Sunday after Christmas, let each of us reflect on the amazing power of love and commit ourselves to taking time to connect with God; to making time to love and be loved by Jesus’ Dad..

Let us pray

Nurturing God, remembering the revolutionary nature of the holy family, we remember all who need our sustaining love. Grant that all people may hear together the song of joy, and find their homes in the garden of justice and hope, that we may experience the fullness of life, which is your will for all, in the coming of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Let the church assembled say: Amen!


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