ORDINARY AND UNIQUE – First Sunday after Christmas Day, Year C; Feast of the Holy Family, Year C (RC)

December 26, 2021

Revised Common Lectionary
1 Samuel 2:18-20, 26
Psalm 148
Colossians 3:12-17
Luke 2:41-52

Lectionary for Mass (RC)
1 Samuel 1:20-22, 24-28
Psalm 84:2-3, 5-6, 9-10 (see 5a)
1 John 3:1-2, 21-24
Luke 2:41-52

There are both ordinary and unique qualities in the life of every family, including the holy family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. On this Sunday after Christmas—indeed, on the very day after Christmas—the Gospel reading offers us a glimpse of the family into which Jesus was born and grew to adulthood. Most of us will probably recognize some dynamics that we have ourselves experienced in relation to parents or children, and yet there are some aspects of today’s story that point to their uniqueness.

Most adults can relate to the anxiety that filled Mary and Joseph when they discovered that Jesus was missing and as they searched for him over the course of many days. We can also understand the annoyance underlying Mary’s rebuking question, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety” (Lk 2:48).

There is likewise a familiar ring to the response from a teenager who seemed not the least bit concerned about the consequences of his actions: “Why were you searching for me?” (2:49) Jesus was hardly the first teenager ever to express the sentiment that parents just don’t get it.

While the story we hear today portrays Jesus as a normal young person, Luke’s interest is theological rather than biographical, and so various details highlight his uniqueness. What seems like an impulsive decision to stay behind in Jerusalem is a foreshadowing of his life trajectory. During his ministry, Jesus will spend a great deal of time in the Temple and its environs in an often-contentious dialogue with the religious leaders there. Just as Luke shows him teaching in the Temple in his youth, so will Jesus become a rabbi steeped in Jewish practice and teaching. Jerusalem will be the city of his destiny, the place in which he will suffer, die, and rise. Perhaps most striking of all is Jesus’ answer to his parents that underlines his unique relationship with God: “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (2:49)

The parents of Jesus are portrayed by the Gospel writer as faithful but confused parents. Luke tells us that “they did not understand what he said to them” (2:50). They really did not know that Jesus had to be in his Father’s house. Yet they took him home and cared for him, while “[h]is mother treasured all these things in her heart” (2:51). As parents they accepted and carried out the mission that they had been given and around which they would live as a family. They would support Jesus as he prepared for his own mission, standing with him, and guiding him as he “increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor” (2:51).

As we rejoice at the wonder of God among us in the birth of Jesus, we remember today that the Word-made-flesh grew up in a family both ordinary and unique and in which relationships could get messy. The holy family was made up of people like us who at times experienced fear, misunderstanding, and even exasperation. Many parents today find themselves loving and caring for children that they don’t fully understand, just as many children feel misunderstood by their parents.

Today’s Gospel story is surely an encouragement to family members everywhere that they are not alone.

A Hymn for Today: “Come, Sing a Home and Family”

Hymn writer Alan J. Hommerding has created a text that celebrates both the ordinariness and uniqueness of the holy family. The parents of Jesus are portrayed in this hymn as both faithful, observant Jews and people who embody values that Jesus would later proclaim and enact during his life and ministry.

Come, sing a home and family
In Nazareth of old,
Whose humble grace a noble place
In Christian life now holds:
A maiden’s holy, vibrant faith,
Which said, “Let it be done!”
A dreamer who risked life and limb
Protecting God’s own Son.

At Mary’s table Jesus learned
To bless, give thanks, and eat,
To welcome all as honored guests
By washing weary feet.
Her sweeping floor and lighting lamps,
Her kneading bread with leav’n,
Her journeys to the well foretold
To Christ the reign of heav’n.

By Joseph’s side young Jesus learned
To work and read and pray,
The law and love of God above
Placed in his heart to stay.
While cradled by the carpenter,
The boy came to discern
That prodigal, forgiving arms
Await a child’s return.

Whatever form our fam’ly takes,
The gospel way we seek:
To feed the hungry, heal the sick,
Lift up the poor and weak.
In daily life and simple tasks
Our song must never cease
Of dreaming worker, maiden bold,
And child of lasting peace.

Text: Alan J. Hommerding, b. 1956, © 1994, World Library Publications, a division of GIA Publications, Inc. Used by permission under OneLicense #A-729857
Tunes: CAROL (Willis), ST. MICHAEL’S (German), FOREST GREEN

Image Credit: Jesus Found in the Temple, James Tissot, Brooklyn Museum

“Word and Song: A Lectionary Reflection” is written by the Executive Director of The Hymn Society, Rev. Dr. Mike McMahon. For his full bio, click here and scroll down to the “staff” section.

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