Feast of the Holy Family

December 29, 2019

Sir 3:2-6, 12-14/Col 3:12-21 or 3:12-17/Mt 2:13-15, 19-23 (17) Pss Prop

Like Joseph in our Gospel reading, we may need God’s messengers to interrupt us amid our slumbers.  

By themselvesthe first two readings in today’s lectionary might easily leave us asleep. There are dreams embedded in these passages too.  They are wonderful dreams, to be sure – the dreams we all have for our families. Sirach projects the hope of one generation passing on its wisdom and prosperity to succeeding generations, who are properly grateful.  Colossians extends this vision of mutual care through the practice of Christ’s peace to the whole extended family of God. All good. All of what we should hope for every family.  

But do we? Amid the pieties of our Hallmark-Channel dreams for our own families, we may be lulled into forgetting that even the most innocent of children can be threatening. We may not want the families of some children to upset the peace of our own tranquility or cut into our prosperity.  But right here amid the Christmas season we thought we would find that “all is calm, all is bright,” the church holds up one of those “other people’s” families, a refugee family, as the Holy Family.  

The Christ child has not yet done much of anything except be born. Certainly, he has not yet walked with the poor, upended social values with his Beatitudes, or proclaimed a new Jubilee year of economic redistribution. He has not even proven to be a youthful prodigy yet by discoursing in the Temple with the rabbis. Still, Herod is already out to get him. His very identity is a threat.  

By the end of the Matthew 2 passage, Joseph has proven to be quite politically savvy as he navigates the map to find a safe home for his family. But at first, even he needs a jolt from God’s angelic messenger to realize their danger and migrate to Egypt.  Think then, of some of the children who may haunt our consciousnessallow God to awaken us from slumbering insularity into active solidarity: 


Gerald W. Schlabach
Professor of Theology