Weekly Message 12/28/14

December 27‐28, 2014
The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph
Sirach 3:2‐14 Colossians 3:12‐17 Matthew 2:13‐23
Ahhhhh….FAMILY. In the best of worlds our families are supportive, caring and safe havens in which we can grow and develop our sense of purpose and direction. In the less than perfect circumstances there are hurts and wounds inflicted upon family members by other familial partners. The illusive image of FAMILY comprising a mom, dad and one, two or more kids (along with perhaps grandparents, uncles/aunts and assorted cousins) nowadays needs to be expanded to be understood in a vastly different context. While there are certainly still family portraits of first‐time mom, dad and kids, the BIGGER portrait of FAMILY also includes divorced and remarried couples, blended families of kids from both sides, gay and lesbian couples…some with kids/some without, grandparents raising grandkids, single parents raising children, the images are many and each unique. What defines these FAMILIES are the commitments they make to one another, the selflessness and support they give to their members and the willingness to face the joys and hardships of life together. Stripped of the romanticized emotions that are evoked in Holy Card images of Jesus, Mary and Joseph…let's not forget the trials and crisis they weathered: unmarried teenage Mary found to be pregnant, her fiancée Joseph decides to DIVORCE her rather than allow her to be stoned to death (as the law would have allowed, through the promptings of grace Joseph changes his mind and accepts Mary, along with Jesus…who becomes his ADOPTED son, family has to move frequently to avoid persecution…and then Mary has to watch her son be tortured and killed. Hardly a PERFECT image…and in this is a life lesson….FAMILY is whatever works, not one image fits all. All of us were born into a genetic relationship of those who participated in our creation. SOMETIMES this will comprise our FAMILY in which we grow and thrive. SOMETIMES, despite our genetic relationships, our TRUE FAMILY must be sought, found and forged with experiences that build trust and
understanding in order to become the foundation upon which we live life. Who is YOUR family? What are the defining characteristics by which you have built your relationships with one another. What are the give and take you accept in having them as your family….and what have been the lines crossed that caused breaks and divisions? Finally, however you describe or define YOUR network of people who comprise your family….remember…GRACE is not bestowed upon only one image of family…but rather, GRACE and HOLINESS dwells wherever and however people bind their lives together in love and support.

Weekly Message 12/25/14

December 24‐25, 2014
Christmas Eve and Christmas Day
Isaiah 9:1‐6 Titus 2:11‐14 Luke 2:1‐14
At twilight on Christmas Eve the freeways are filled with cars transiting far and near containing families and friends joining together for the holidays. On Christmas morning a similar ebb and flow occurs as families gather themselves together, get loaded into cars and trek from one home to another so as to celebrate a joyeux noël. As arduous as Mary's long journey upon a donkey while seeking shelter, these commuting families will endure crowded roads, accidents, delays and heightened tensions familiar to the holidays. There are as well those who are neither traveling nor preparing to welcome friends or family. Some live solitary lives, surrounded by bustling communities in which they are anonymous. Some are in shelters or riverbeds with a cot or cardboard as their stable. Some are in hospitals and rest homes, age having depleted their youthful vigor. Still more are worn and weary, tormented by long‐ago choices that have resulted in broken lives and hurting spirits. 
Regardless of the varied images of how people acknowledge or avoid Christmas, many of us share remembrances of what Christmas USED TO BE. As unique as our present life circumstances, for each of us there was a FIRST TIME we heard the story of God becoming one with us. Perhaps upon the lap of a doting grandmother or in a church, school or neighborhood event; with child‐like acceptance we received the story and believed that God wanted to be with us. Society certainly chimed in with its emphasis on an amazing fellow in red with a belly that shakes like a bowl full of jelly possessing abilities to visit every home on the planet in one night! Who would not want to believe in these wonderful stories!?!
There was a time we believed with such intensity that we could hardly wait for Christmas. Then, we began to grow older. Presents and miracles for which we hoped were not forthcoming, the impossibility of the North Pole story melted like ice and the toll of life spawned questions about the value and purpose of Jesus. What was once
 anxiously awaited has for many become a time for parties, shopping, decorating, travel, perhaps even a mandatory visit to a religious service to make nice with extended family; the Star of Wonder no longer shines bright and Christmas has ceased being a divine gift but something to be gotten through.
So, why are you here at this Christmas Mass? Out of duty to mom and dad? Because of the kids? Because this is
what is supposedly expected of you? Or, might there be an emptiness within your heart that, despite your best
efforts, has never been filled? Are you tired of carrying life all alone? Have events beaten and wearied you? If
you could go back, to when you easily BELIEVED that Jesus was God's gift to YOU, would you be willing to try?
Christmas is not for perfect people living perfect lives. Christmas is not about decorating, preparing the perfect
feast nor obtaining gifts and toys. Christmas is for we who are weary, frightened, overwhelmed, pulled in many
directions and befuddled with what has become of our lives. Christmas IS for those who don't know how to fix
all that is wrong or make right the mistakes lived.
Christmas does not require heavy doctrine, theological rules or ritual discipline. Christmas only needs an open
soul and a willingness to HOPE again. No matter your circumstances, today, ….God offers us a fresh start. The
infant Jesus does not come to judge or correct, but in search of a home in which to live; a home within our hearts
and imagination. Whatever our past disappointments, the Child of Bethlehem wishes to simply be with us.
Are you willing to start over? Are you willing to try again? Are you willing, within your heart, to say yes? Are you
willing to let Jesus be with you tonight, right now, right here? Christmas can be as full and wonderful as you
remember it…all you have to do is say YES, I want to believe again.
The story is the same as when you first heard it; a pregnant mom and dad in distress, a stable filled with
animals, a child being born…a child who has made a difference in billions of lives. All that Christmas needs to
happen again is YES.