Incarnation  –  A Family Affair

Kathryn Rombs // Scripture: A Mother's Lens


December 25  

In those days, our parish held Midnight Mass at midnight. We reverently sang “Silent Night” in the candlelight into the first, dark hours of Christmas morning. Our six kids’ heads bobbed, and eyes strained to remain open, while the youngest slept in his pajamas on the pew.

Returning home, bodies fell hard into beds while my husband and I set presents under the tree. Some gifts needed to be assembled or taken out of packaging; stockings needed to be filled; Santa’s cookie needed to be eaten and his note written. 

By the time kids were romping in the living room, I had just clocked in at four hours of sleep and I felt like I had a rare disease and might need to be hospitalized. Peeling myself from the mattress, I shuffled into the kitchen and started making pancakes. My disorientation and stabbing fatigue were interlaced with acute joy. “This is it. I feel so full and complete.”

My twenty-year-old self almost chose a different path: freedom, autonomy, high income. Dare I say it? Even glamour. What would my Christmas have been like this year? I would have been one of those people who felt underwhelmed. Christmas might have been marked by a feeling of emptiness or a tinge of regret. “Christmas is not my holiday,” I might have thought. 

Is it just cultural pressure? Do we have an American ideal of how to celebrate Christmas that wrongly emphasizes fireplaces, children, and presents—family? 

I don’t think so. The early Church Fathers saw Christmas not only as a celebration of the Incarnation, but also of redemption. Athanasius saw our salvation in the creche at Bethlehem. That is, by becoming incarnate, God shares his divinity with humanity. Not only in the cross, then, but even in the birth of Christ is the heart of the mystery of our salvation. 

Our salvation came through Christ, and the first effect of his Incarnation was the making of the Holy Family. In a very real sense, then, Christmas is a celebration that involves family. It is first and foremost a celebration of Christ’s birth, and a rejoicing in the flood of graces that come to us through his Incarnation. But it is right and good that we cling to and remember the familial element—easy or hard, virtuous or fallen—of Christmas Day: the child who vomits, the other one who has a fever; the divorced husband and absent father who doesn’t call; grandparents who drop in at an inopportune time; the driving across town to stop in at yet another family’s Christmas celebration; making your very favorite cookies; the smell of gingerbread; lights that may be a little tacky but you can actually appreciate once a year; a son who tells stories all afternoon; a daughter who invites you to do a workout routine with her; the in-laws; the family members who are far away this year; the parent you lost a few years back and who is very much on your mind. The familial element of Christmas is never enough and yet always too much. Human flaws, poverty, sins, and limitations are ever-present. Yet that is precisely what God entered into and redeemed. Our hope is in Godwho reveals himself and saves us through his Incarnation. And the first effect of the Incarnation is the making of a family. 

My prayer for you is that each moment of your Christmas Day be touched by God himself, filling your family with his divine love. Family—your family—is where God wants to be.

Proclaim the Genius & Share!
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