The Holy Family serves as a wonderful example of how we share our children
All of our children will be home for Christmas. We are very excited about that fact! And two of them will be bringing their spouses with them. Our son has been married for three years now and one of our daughters was married this past spring.
They are creating their own family of origins, with their own family traditions, but this year we will all be together here at home for Christmas.
When our children were very young we never really thought about or discussed that one day we would actually have to share them with anyone else, or that they might move to the far reaches of the country.
Luckily, I can say that as our children grew older we slowly adjusted to the idea of sharing them with other people and the idea that their own interests might take them far from home. Over the years we have taken each one of them to airports so they could board planes for school or work in different parts of the country, or sometimes even to different places in the world.
Those adventures for them, those moves and changes, were hard for us just as they would be for any parents, but fortunately the two children that are married and live in other states have picked wonderful spouses.
None of these events – the moves, the marriages, the careers that might require them to make decisions on where and when they would go – ever entered our minds on those beautiful days when our children were born.
While I was thinking about the upcoming Christmas holiday and how over the years we had to learn to share our children, I began to wonder how Mary and Joseph felt on that first Christmas morning. I am sure they had the same feelings for their son at His birth as we did for our own children. Feelings of wonder, happiness, gratitude, amazement and worry were on their minds at Jesus’ birth, but did Mary and Joseph think about “sharing” Jesus with others?
This idea stayed with me for a few days and I decided to see if I could find a way to mentally place myself in that humble stable on the first Christmas morning.
As I looked at various Advent season prayer guides and support materials I found that certain reflections for Advent use the Ignatian tradition of prayer to contemplate Scripture.
Developed by St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, this prayer exercise asks us to reflect on a Scripture story, ask the Holy Spirit for guidance, and use our imagination to place ourselves in the story to dig deeper into Scripture so that God might communicate with us in a more personal, profound way (my husband will be happy that I am referencing St. Ignatius since he was Jesuit-educated in high school and college).
St. Ignatius put it this way: “The familiar story of the Nativity should allow you to more easily be present fully to the persons and places of this mystery. Whatever methods help you enter into the whole scene and to be with the persons involved you should embrace.” What would we learn about the mind and heart of Mary and Joseph if we used this prayer technique to reflect on the Nativity scene?
I decided to try it and see what I might personally discover. As I reflected I realized that most Nativity scenes show shepherds surrounding the Holy Family. They were coming no doubt out of curiosity at first, to see what was happening under that bright star, but when they arrived they knew that someone special was resting in that simple manger.
For me, the presence of the shepherds shows that Mary and Joseph knew intuitively that Jesus’ life was meant to be shared. They could not know exactly how this “sharing” of Jesus would unfold but they had trusted God so far and I feel sure they trusted Him at that moment to see them through whatever might happen going forward.
This small insight into the scene of Jesus’ birth strengthens my resolve to lovingly share my children and to trust in God, even though I know that they will only be with us a relatively short time this Christmas season.
Mrs. Christiana is coordinator of the diocesan Marriage Preparation and Enrichment Office.