Jesus came from a dysfunctional family.
I wrote those words for the first time a few years ago, and I remind myself of them every year around this time. The message at church is about and hope and peace, and the town is aglow with festive décor, and cheery music pumps through the airwaves. And as much as I’m grateful for the joy and love, I need to return to the more complicated, and human, reality of Jesus’ birth.
This year, we’ve celebrated and laughed as a family. We’ve also argued about the lopsided tree and pointed fingers about who was to blame when it fell over. I’ve wrestled with anxiety that our teenagers will be disappointed with their gifts. Peter and I have disagreed with each other about how much to spend and how many presents to buy. I’ve complained about the countless text threads with my siblings about who will bring appetizers to Mom’s house.
And that’s not to mention the nostalgia for Christmas morning before we were aware of the role of alcohol in the household, before any of us had gone to therapy, before any of our children had diagnosable conditions.
For a holiday that is supposed to remind us of peace and love, we experience a lot of angst. I know we aren’t alone. I am heartened to remember that Jesus came from a dysfunctional family too.
The sanitized images I grew up with of a cooing baby boy and a silent starry night and a pain-and-blood-free mother and a contemplative stepfather don’t correspond with what the biblical stories tell us about Jesus’ birth. Jesus was born into a family with questions about who his father was and alienation from the rest of the clan. Mary labored under threat of rejection and even death by stoning.
It is into this family that Jesus was born. The one called Prince of Peace stepped willingly into this discord. The one called God Saves entered into a family who would soon become refugees. Jesus didn’t come in spite of our dysfunctional families. He came in the midst of one in order for us to know that he is indeed God With Us.
More with Amy Julia:
- Why Do We Know So Much About Mary?
- The Infinite Became Finite
- Am I Willing to Be Interrupted by God’s Work of Love in the World?
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