After dinner each night, my four-year old pulls out her Advent calendar, punches her little finger into the appropriate number, and grabs her evening chocolate square.
This nightly routine presents an important reminder to celebrate the Advent season- a time to prepare our hearts for the birth of Jesus and to seek God in our midst.
Under the soft glow of our ornament-filled Christmas tree, we speak often these days about the Holy Family- Mary, Joseph and Jesus. We try to paint the picture of perhaps history’s most well known family and this cherished account of God’s love.
Yet, in this gaze to the past, we must not ignore the invitation to look around and to find similar families seeking food, drink, home, and safety.
Today’s Mary, Joseph, and Jesus are found in the 79.5 million individuals who were forcibly displaced from their homes (as of the end of 2019). In time, we will gain a painful glimpse into how Covid-19 impacted this marginalized population’s suffering even more.
There is no shortage of need in our world. We are reminded daily of the injustices that cripple our society (and for some reading this, it is excruciatingly real), yet with deep division in our nation, our communities and in our hearts, we are often more concerned with being right than trying to understand and to change.
If we are to truly live this Advent season, our time, energy, and fortune would be better served to find God in stranger and neighbor instead of that Amazon Prime sale that will provide only a temporary gratification.
We need a shift in this season, and all seasons, to find harmony in what we say we believe and in how we live. We cannot gently place our porcelain characters in our home Nativity creche while ignoring our abandoned human family.
We cannot care more about the small baby Jesus figurine that we keep secure in a drawer until Christmas day than the nearly 32-million displaced children who are filled with God’s Spirit.
If this year has taught us anything, it is that we are connected. We need one another, to not only act responsibly, but to act with love. The suffering is just too great.
Today’s holy family is indeed gathered in your home and in your community. They are also gathered in the tens of millions who are hungry. In the United States this year, 1 in 4 families didn’t know where their next meal would come from due to a broken system crushed by a crippling virus.
This year’s holy family is found in those who mourn loss of work, loss of life. They are found in those who are treated differently because of the color of their skin, the language they speak, the way they live and love. And yes, they are found in those who were told their home were no longer theirs- and they find themselves seeking and yearning for someone to care enough to do something.
This Christmas, let’s care enough. Let’s bring the spirit of the carols we sing to generously and prayerfully transform our world.
Given all that this year has been, if there was ever a time to answer prayers, it is now.
May that chocolate-filled calendar and fragile Nativity scene remind you not only of the birth of Jesus 2,000 years ago, allow it to tug at your heart to seek out and to lift up today’s holy families.