Yesterday we celebrated Christmas. In many churches worldwide in this Christmas season we can see pictures or icons of the holy family of Jesus. In catholic and some traditional protestant churches we can also see some Christmas pictures but mostly we can see the statues of Mary, Joseph and a baby Jesus. In some protestant denominations where icons or statues are not popular people usually imagine this holy family while reading the Bible story of the Jesus` birthday. What is very beautiful about this holiday is that ALL Christians regardless of their denomination are celebrating Jesus` birthday. Even people who are not religious traditionally celebrate this holiday by giving gifts, decorating their houses, preparing delicious food and enjoy gathering with their family members.
And here we come to this very sacred word – Family. This is the topic of today`s sermon and there are many things that we should learn about the importance of the family. This is the first lesson that Jesus taught the world, even though he was just a new-born baby not even knowing His mother tongue. Yet His birth is a big lesson to all people. He was born in a byre surrounded with animals and hay. He was not born in a luxurious palace even though He is a King of Heaven. His place of the birth teaches us that material treasure is not the most important thing in this world. As we read in the Bible he got gifts from wise men: gold, myrrh and incense.
Those three gifts have their meaning. Biblical scholars tell us that gold represented value, dignity, authority and everlasting kingship. It is a gift for a king (or a queen of course). Today, many of us yearn for a greater sense of value, dignity and authority in our own lives. Myrrh was an anointing oil used as gifts to kings in the Eastern cultures. The anointing of oil was an act that symbolized holiness. Holy in Hebrew means “set apart and different from all others.” In the Hebrew culture it began as a practice for priests, but was later accepted for prophets and kings. And incense. For the Jews, incense was to be a symbol of prayer, as David says, “May my prayer be set before you like incense” (Psalm 141:2). Incense is still used by priests within the Eastern Orthodox Church.
In the modern time that we live, I believe that it is still important to give the definition of what the family is because some people like to use this term to discriminate certain groups of other people. The traditional family is certainly the family of straight couple and their one or more children. Jesus` family was an example of the family that only looked as a traditional one but he was actually adopted son of Joseph, since we know that Joseph was not biological father of Jesus. So the families are also those families with adopted children. The family can be a family of same-sex partners and their adopted child. Or even if some couple cannot or do not want to have their biological child, they are still family. The family is about love not gender, biological characteristics or sexual orientation. But what I believe is one Family that is also important or the most important to all of us is the Family called The Church. Since all of us believe that we have our one heavenly father, God we believe that we are all children of God. And this is a very special blessing and a gift. We call each other brothers and sisters and this is a symbol that in a spiritual sense we are brothers and sisters. The importance of Our Heavenly Family is emphasized by Jesus when he was twelve in one interesting story from the Bible from Luke 2, 41-52 when Jesus went to Jerusalem at the feast of the Passover. He stayed in the town even though His parents had been going back home. They literally lost Jesus. But after three days they had finally found Him in the temple when Jesus replied to his step-father and mom: ”Did you not know that I must be in my Father`s house?”. This doesn`t mean that if our parents are not religious or they seem to be careless or for any other reason we should not be obedient to them. Jesus was an obedient child, He only wanted to teach us about the importance of Heavenly Family. This means that the Father`s house is an important place and to all of us as through Jesus we can also call Him Abba father, as it is written. What we also read in this chapter is that Jesus came to Nazareth and was obedient to His parents. So children should always be obedient to their parents.
In Colossians 3. 18-21 Bible gives us some instructions on how one healthy family members should treat each other. Partners should dedicate to each other, love each other and not to be harsh to each other and do what is fitting in the Lord. If they have children, they should obey parents in everything. But parents should not embitter their kids, or they will become discouraged. These are good pieces of advice given to our nuclear families but what I would like to put my focus to at the end of this sermon is our spiritual family. The family containing of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Especially when we grow old and if our parents died or if we lost our spouse or partner, people become aware that the family can be lost. But The Church is one big family and Christians will never be alone. They will always have millions and millions of Christian brothers and sisters worldwide and this is how beautiful our faith is. In Colossians 3: 12 -14 God is giving some instructions on how should we behave as being parts of the Big Family. It is written: ”Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”
Let us thank to the Lord for giving us this treasure called family. Thank Him for our biological nuclear and extended family. For our parents, sisters, brothers and cousins. And also let us be thankful for the big spiritual family which is called The Church. Be obedient and love our biological family like Jesus did and also love and care for our spiritual family like Jesus did. Let He bless us all. Amen.