Jesus, Relatives & Christmas Dinner

Everybody Loves Raymond‘Tis the season for families to gather together at the table. We gather for Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, or a Christmas dinner to connect with our extended families including our eccentric relatives and that one crazy uncle. These family gatherings can be rather peculiar, as most of us do not live in a Norman Rockwell painting.

This is also the time of year we set up our nativity displays. They are idyllic and sanitized representations. Mary is sitting up, composed and tranquil after giving birth without an epidural. The dirty rags and straw have been removed. Jesus lies clean and happy in a feeding trough that looks like it was just bought on Black Friday and never used. The whole scene looks like a Febreze meets Purell commercial. As we gather with goofy grandpa and silly sister we look nothing like the Holy Family and thus feel disconnected from them. This sanitized view of that first Christmas does us a disservice (though I am not advocating we set up a realistic church crèche with all the smells, mind you). It distances us from the very child sent to be “God with us.”

Jesus is supposed to be relatable to us. His favorite title for himself was Son of Man, meaning he wanted to be recognized as one of us, for us, and with us. Let us ponder this family for a minute and see if we can relate.

Think of that year’s Hanukkah dinner. Mary is there; she’s the quiet teenager pregnant out of wedlock.  There is the fiancé Joseph, the hardworking blue-collar step-dad with hardly a hint of his royal lineage left. Across from him is Mary’s crazy uncle Zach who saw a vision of the angel of the Lord and is now dumbstruck seated next to his elderly expecting wife; they are having that “surprise” baby anytime soon.

You can imagine a few years later at a similar dinner with a teenage Jesus. His cousin John’s is the religious extremist with peculiar clothing. He’s also a picky eater (he prefers organic honey-dipped locusts). Jesus’ brothers are there also. I can only imagine his grandma scolding them for not washing their feet before coming to the table saying, “Why can’t you be more like Jesus.”

I hope you forgive me the indulgence of my imagination, but what I am simply trying to say is that Jesus was from a typical home. It’s a blended family with a stepfather and has all the peculiarities that yours does. That’s the point. When you hang out with your family this year remember you have a Savior who can relate. Teenage pregnancy, mid-life changes, blended family? Maybe you have a child that is labeled “special” or “gifted.” Mary and Elizabeth understand all too well. This Christmas remember that God entered a messy and inglorious ordinary world. And he has entered yours as well. Jesus wants to be part of your Christmas, not matter how crazy it is. He doesn’t mind. He can relate.

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