Today is the Feast of the Holy Family. This Advent and throughout these days of Christmas, I've been reflecting on what the little family of Joseph and Mary and Jesus was like. It must have been quiet and simple and humble, don't you think? I speculate that they had a large and supportive community, because I think that's what everyone had in that time and place. Today's Gospel reading supports that idea - a caravan of people travelling together so large that family members could lose track of each other.
I do the Holy Family a disservice by discounting their humanity, their ordinariness. It's very easy to assume that their heroic virtue, their saintly holiness, exempted them from ordinary, daily life. I forget that they had to care for each other in relationship just as any family must do. They looked after neighbours, chatted at market stalls, debated whether they could afford new shoes, looked forward to news of loved ones far away.
Were they quiet and unremarkable, or was theirs the home people went to for a meal, for advice, for solace? Did they debate the issues of the day over the evening meal? Were they quick to laugh, or were they sober and serious?
I like to think there was a lot of joy, a lot of laughter, a lot of affection. A home like that would have drawn many other people to it, spreading the joy and laughter out into their community – the first instance of bringing Christ into our homes and place of work, no?
We are also not to be foolish and empty-headed (I’m sure none of us here are) but still, I prize joy and laughter.
My own family was small and quiet and very ordinary. We had our trials, as all families do, and went through less than stellar periods together. But today, on this feast day, and the fourth anniversary of my dad’s death, what I remember and treasure the most is the laughter and the joy. My dad’s gift was seeing and appreciating the humour in ordinary things, and his greatest happiness came from simple things – a good book, a crossword, a glass of scotch. Along with his eyebrows, those are qualities I inherited from him, and I consider myself greatly blessed.
I give thanks for the blessings of the past year – those easy to accept as well as the difficult – and face the new year coming with joy and laughter.