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Family ties

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Luke 2:1-5
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

Yesterday in Kankakee, sitting in Lori's Restaurant with my friend Don, we are having our Christmas breakfast. I read to him from what I've written about family and Christmas memories, and tears flood my eyes. This is kind of sappy, sure, all these memories, but what the heck? What is all this emotion?

We talk some more, and I realize it's as much about the future as about the memories. I notice how grateful and full of joy I am that the people in our family all think of God in much the same way. All of us are learning the art of surrender, the joy of knowing what it is to be a child of God, at 18, at 23, at 56, at 83.

Family ties bind us tight together, for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health. And they follow us far beyond our own lives. David inhabited the city of Bethlehem centuries after his death. Joseph and Mary were part of his family, and therefore they come to Bethlehem to be taxed. Jesus, about to be born, is part of this family already.

I think of the devastation David experienced when Joab, his general, killed Absalom, his son. It didn't matter that Absalom had rejected and betrayed David and his family. Many years ago, when I had enthusiastically joined the Moonies and renounced traditional Christianity, Mom wept when I phoned her from California. She tried to hold back, but her grief was powerful and hard to contain. Her tears were hardly tears of joy. She must have felt like part of her deepest self was dying, as I appeared to be turning away from God.

Our phone calls often ended badly. Mom hurt so much. Eventually I left the Moonies and returned home. I can imagine a little of what Mom might have felt then, the joy of undivided family, restored and, for the moment anyway, looking forward.

Joseph and Mary travel the roads to Bethlehem, knowing the climax of Gabriel's prophecy is nearly upon them, holding the angel's words close. Part of David's family, they are establishing their own as well, preparing to receive Jesus their son.

Sustain us, Lord, when our families are broken. Let us hold fast and wait for you to anoint us with the oil of gladness instead of mourning.

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