This will be a difficult Christmas for many who are separated from family by a tiny virus. The celebration of Jesus’ birth is something that usually draws families together. It may be the nostalgia of childhood Christmases or the smells of home cooking; whatever it is, thousands will hit pause on work and school and parties to make their way home. What is it about “going home” that fills us up at Christmas?
But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus” (Luke 1:30-31).
Mary was experiencing shock and awe by the angelic announcement that she was “with child.” As the shock wore off, the next emotion in line was fear. The angel said that the child was Emmanuel, “God with us” (Matt. 1:23). That’s great. But, Mary had a problem.
Her biggest problem was not the pregnancy (although that wasn’t without its problems). Her biggest problem was that she needed a man to take responsibility. Joseph, knowing the child wasn’t his, and being a law-abiding Jew, was going to quietly excuse himself (Matt. 1:19).
If Mary could not produce a Hebrew man who would claim responsibility, the village would assume that the father was a Gentile (most likely the product of a rape by a Roman soldier), the baby would be labeled a mamzer, and mother and child would both be outcasts in the village life.
This was Mary’s dilemma. What does she do? She runs home … to her family.
In fact, she runs way back home – to her roots – to her cousin in the old hill country. Cousins are often our first, best friends.
Family is that safe place we run to when there’s nowhere else to go.
Here’s why –
1. Family is a safe place where someone is always for you.
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit” (Luke 1:41).
Elizabeth, Mary’s cousin, was pregnant. The baby moved when Mary entered the room. Elizabeth took this as a sign that Mary was special because the baby was happy to see Mary.
Mary was running away from her dilemma, but when she gets home she finds someone who is for her. Before Mary was able to explain her situation, Elizabeth already on her side.
Family may confront you, rebuke you, chastise you, and argue with you, but in the end, they are the ones who are always for you.
It is empowering to know that your family is proud of you.
2. Family is the place where you are reminded of who you are.
In a loud voice she [Elizabeth] exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!” (Luke 1:42).
The angel told Mary that she was “highly favored,” and that the Lord was with her (Luke 1:28), but it always helps to hear it from flesh and blood. Mary needed to hear it from someone she trusted. Elizabeth filled that role. Elizabeth told Mary that she was headed in the right direction!
Going back to your family always reminds you of who you are – who God created you to be.
Family helped to shape you. For better or for worse, family reminds you of who you are, what you need to work on, and the ways God is constantly growing you.
3. Family is the place where you are affirmed.
Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” (Luke 1:45).
Elizabeth affirmed that the message Mary heard from the angel was true and that Mary was right to believe it.
My undergraduate degree is in Mechanical Engineering from Texas A&M University. Three years after graduation, I felt called to ministry. I quit my job and headed for Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. My father was skeptical. He tried to be supportive, but he believed I was doing the wrong thing. Engineering had been his dream for my life. He didn’t want me to give it up.
A year into Seminary I was asked to preach at the little church that had raised me. All my family was there. My Dad sat on the last row – as far away from the pulpit as he could get and still be in the room. After the sermon, the people came by to greet me. The last in line was my Dad. He hugged me and with an emotional voice whispered in my ear, “You’re doing the right thing.”
It means everything to be a part of a family that affirms you.
Find a cherished family member to hug (or call), and have a “Mary” Christmas!