Today, Christmas is seen, more than anything else, as a time for family. That time of year when Mum, Dad, Granny, Granddad and all the kids come together to spend time together eating, drinking, playing and, quite probably, arguing. We do it because we know that family is important. Politicians spend much of their time talking about families (especially “hard working” ones) because they know it speaks to a central part of our being, of our collective and individual consciousness.
The New Testament, the story of Jesus and those who followed him in the beginning, starts with two very different images of family.
Firstly we have the genealogy of Jesus. The messianic family tree starting with Abraham, the father of nations, through King David and on to Jesus Himself. It show Jesus’ pedigree as a Jew, but also as Messiah as the scriptures stated that He would come from David’s bloodline. This idea of family has great importance for this reason. It establishes that He is of the right stock, has the right blood coursing through His veins.
But then we see a different side. A man torn between his love for his fiancée and his honour as a man. Joseph is engaged, but his bride to be is pregnant. It seems like an impossible situation, but would actually have been very easy for a man of the time; ditch the woman in disgrace and retain your own honour. Joseph, though, has a dream. This is no disgrace, but a gift from God. Joseph chooses to believe, whether due to faith in God or love of Mary or a combination of the two. He doesn’t have to do this, but Mary and this baby are his family now. Not through genealogy, but by love.
Jesus himself gives another view of family,
“While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, ‘Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.’ He replied to him, ‘Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?’ Pointing to his disciples, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.’” (Matthew 12:46-50 NIVUK)
Family is not necessarily even defined by blood or marriage relationships. It is those whom you love and who love you back. Those for whom you would do anything, and know they would do the same. This is Jesus’ new definition of family. It is one of love, respect and understanding.
So, whoever we see as our family, whether it be our immediate relatives or something wider than that, then cherish that. Hold on to what that means to you, because it defines you as much as you define it. It is a gift from God, one which no law, politician or outside influence can take from you.