When two European-Americans meet we usually are most curious about what each of us does for a living. We seem to define ourselves, by and large, by our jobs. I always tell people Iím a professor of "Hooked on Phonics." My cousin is convinced I really donít do anything at all!
When two members of the Lakota Sioux Tribe meet, they are usually curious about how they are related and will spend a lot of time naming relatives until they find a common link.
In the Gospel tonight as we anticipate Christmas we usually take the short reading to get down to business and leave out what is certainly equally important, the kinship chart.
We want to know what Joseph and Mary DO on Christmas but it seems boring and tedious to us to hear how they are related to Abraham, David, Isaac and a swarm of people of whom we never heard (pity the deacon who reads this passage!). So we skip ahead to what seems to be the meat of the story.
Yet itís relationship that ties us together and keeps us together. My mother always told me blood is thicker than water. She never studied kinship but she took care of a lot of relatives and thus knew more about this topic than any anthropologist could hope for!
Christmas is about relationship. And relationship is about giftsófor relationships are themselves gifts and we cement those relationships with further gifts, especially at Christmas but also throughout the year.
We are part of a Divine familyónot perfect or whole but holy and blessed. Indeed at this time of year when there is a conspiracy of assumed perfection many people feel most deeply loss, isolation, fear, despair, and confusion. This is all the more reason to lavish gifts and to treat each other as family.
Christ is our relative and thus, so is Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and all those other folks in tonightís reading whom we canít figure and canít pronounce. So, Muslims and Jews and in fact everyone else in the world are also our relatives. Tonight we celebrate that fact.
Do you ever remember going to Christmas dinner or a Christmas party and being introduced to a myriad of relatives you never knew you had? Or do you remember having no relatives around and someone taking you in and making you a relative simply because you donít have any at the moment?
So tonight meet even more of your relatives! Take them in! Comfort them! Receive from them! Give to them!
And share our greatest giftóthe Christ Child, God With Us.
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