Saturday, December 25, 2004

Family Values

Christmas Day. Jo's family descended on us, and we had a lovely time; a full time - people squashed in our house, food squashed in our stomachs, wrapping-paper squashed in our recycling bin; a day of rich blessings. Thank you, Jesus!

And I've been thinking about the Christmas story again, in a new light for me. (I hope I will see it in a new light every year...) I've been wondering about the inn, made famous by countless Nativity plays; the one mentioned in passing in Luke's Gospel, chapter 2, by way of explanation for Jesus' being laid in a manger: it was too full.

I've always known it was too full, and I've (thought I've) known why: Bethlehem's population had been swollen by those who had originated there returning for the Census. Of course the inn was full. But this year I was struck by something that has always been there in the story, but that I hadn't noticed before. Luke stresses that Joseph took Mary to Bethlehem because it was "his own town...because he belonged to the house and line of David"...

So, what was Joseph doing attempting to check-in at the inn in the first place?

Why didn't they stay with any of Joseph's relatives? He must have had relatives there, and they should have been honour-bound to open their home to him. But they did not. Perhaps they didn't approve of Joseph - because he had left home and lived elsewhere - worse, in Galilee, which was full of foreigners; or because he was devoutly religious; or because he had brought shame on them by being foolish enough to go through with a wedding to a woman everyone knew was carrying someone else's child - a user; or, whatever...

And I'm confronted with my own prejudices towards my family - by those prejudices I am aware of; and by the knowledge that I (almost certainly) hold others that I'm not aware of. And of my feelings of being unable to reach out even as I want to do so.

Lord Jesus, who in your coming confronts both my prejudices and my sense of inadequacy, take these from me, even as I receive your embrace of others and of myself; so that I, in turn, may love the Lord my God, and love my neighbour as I love myself. Amen.

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