St Stephen Lewisham
30th December 2012
People have two very different ideas about Families. One might call them the Fantasy-idea and the Factual one. Many people today believe the Fantasy that Family Life ought to consist of one long series of happy experiences – even if they’ve never experienced such happiness themselves
By contrast, the Incarnation of Jesus, which involved not only His Mother, but His whole family His Foster-Father Joseph, and His Grandparents, Saints Joachim and Anne, isn’t a Fantasy but a Fact. The popular mind turns it into the Fantasy that the Holy Family lived a permanently care-free existence.
So let’s face the Facts. The Holy Family had to face a whole series of anxieties from the moment when Mary conceived God’s Son. The gossips of Nazareth no doubt said she’d been ‘no better than she ought to be’. Her account of being visited by an angel would have led many of her friends, perhaps even her family, to think she might have had some sort of mental breakdown. Late in her pregnancy she made the trek from Nazareth to Bethlehem, only to find, as her labour started, that there was no room for them at the inn.
She gave birth: which some mothers liken to ‘entering a long dark tunnel to fetch their child from their womb’. Then she and Joseph and the Child Jesus had to flee at a moment’s notice as refugees to Egypt, a foreign country notorious for its hostility towards Jews. When they had recently taken the Child to the the Temple in Jerusalem as the Law prescribed, an old man called Simeon, whom they’d never met, took hold of the Child and prophesied some disturbing things about His future. ‘This Child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel’ he said; and to Mary, ‘a sword will pierce your own heart too’.
If we study the Bible closely, life for the Holy Family like other families, was beset by many anxieties,– So we shouldn’t expect our lives (as Children of God and Brothers with Christ are going to be trouble-free. From the moment of His conception, in the Lenten Wilderness, throughout His earthly ministry, ‘in the Garden secretly, and on the Cross on High’, God’s Son, Jesus Christ, was tried, tested, tempted ‘at all points like we are’ says the Writer to the Hebrews – but adds ‘yet [He was] without sin.
So what prevented Jesus and His Family from doubting the goodness or the omnipotence of the Heavenly Father? It was those two words ‘Trust’ and ‘Obey’. Those who trust God know that, in the end, He will be faithful and ‘make a way to escape’ as St Paul says – and that ‘way of escape will inevitably involve our doing what God tells us to do – obeying Him in other words.
Many Christians manage to trust God’s providence when troubles come – especially those who have understood that the Way of the Cross is likely to include its share of anxiety; but not everyone who trusts in Him is prepared, like the Holy Family to ‘put their hand into the hands of God’ and follow Him wherever He chooses to lead them – to obey Him, in other words.
‘Lead us not into temptation’: that’s when doubts arise. ‘But deliver us from evil’: that’s how our faith in Him, and obedience to Him, lead us out of the dark tunnel of anxiety into the Light of Christ, the true Light who shines in a world where most people walk in darkness.
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