Many relevant messages could be drawn from a great feast like Christmas. One of them concerns obviously the family. Christmas reflects fundamentally a family culture. Christmas highlights the divine origin and significance of the various vocations that constitute a family– the vocation of the parents, of the father, the mother, the husband, the wife, the children, etc.. Christmas concerns being a wife, a husband, giving birth to a child, being a mother, a father, being parents together, being worthy children, etc.. Every member within the family has a specific vocation and mission from God. Realizing this mission is the basic way to fulfill one’s life. Christmas tells us how important the family is and how meaningfully and effectively we could be a family.
This is of extreme significance in a culture where the value of family is radically questioned and serious attempts are on to destroy the institution of family altogether. Unfortunately normal marriage between man and women is looked down upon, giving birth to children is viewed as something outmoded and children are considered as inconveniences. Trends and movements are active today that scornfully set aside traditional values of family, parenthood, motherhood, fatherhood, etc..
In such a culture, the birth of Jesus to the family of Joseph and Mary carries tremendous meaning and significance especially for the family. Christmas reaffirms the divine institution of the family. The divine child is born into a human family and thereby the family as an institution is wholly sanctified. Christmas invites us to protect and promote the value and sanctity of the family, without which, as we are well aware of, the human society cannot survive. Christmas points to the basic family values that have to witnessed to through our life today.
Family is founded on faith. The primary value in a family is deep faith in God. It is in faith that Mary assumed her motherhood and fulfilled it. It is in faith that Joseph assumed his vocation to be the husband of Mary. It is in faith that he carried out each of the most demanding responsibilities that awaited him as the father of the family. Faith in God was the source and strength of their mutual trust. The same faith prompted Jesus to be obedient to His human parents.
Family is sustained by the unconditional mutual love of the spouses. This love enables the spouses to look primarily for the good of the partner, to forgive without measure, to suffer happily for the other, to enrich the other with one’s total being. This is what the parents of Jesus teach us as spouses. It was to a life of constant self-giving that they were called as they were united by God as husband and wife. They were called to live this self-gift in all the experiences of their life, in their joys and in their sufferings alike. Christmas, the birth of Jesus, was perhaps the real peak of this experience. Conjugal love is the best reflection of the Trinitarian love which is based on perfect self-giving. No human love can have a deeper dimension than this. Christmas invites us to recapture the sanctity of our conjugal relation.
Family fulfills its mission primarily by begetting children of God. To beget children is a divine vocation. To be called to be a father or a mother in the context of a family is God’s will for the humankind. Evading marriage and parenthood purposefully (except in the case of evangelical chastity) is an act directly against the will of God. Naturally parenthood carries with it manifold sufferings, not just inconveniences. But to be the parent of a child, any suffering is worth its while. By deciding to be parents, the couples are knowingly embarking on a life of suffering, but a suffering that has a salvific significance, which will ultimately culminate in the experience and joy of the resurrection. It is here that we have to locate the real joy and fulfillment of family life. No suffering prompted by genuine love will go in vain. Parenthood is a life, spent in its entirety in joyful suffering for the good of the children. Christmas is a call to celebrate parenthood, as did Mary and Joseph all through their life, in and through suffering.
May this Christmas augment our joy of belonging to a family and of fulfilling our responsibilities in the family and may that joy stay with us all through the new year and all through our life. This is my wish and prayer for this Christmas.