As the holiday season comes to an end, many people feel a sense of loss. It’s often a let down as our relatives and friends return home to their busy lives, many times to other parts of the country and even the world.
The premise of the five-week message series for Advent and Christmas has been that God calls us home to our families during the holidays to remember who we are, restore our hope, and experience healing and wholeness, just as God gathered the ancient Israelites from the four winds and led them home as one family ruled by one Lord, one Messiah. If you’ve been following the series, you have already anticipated going home to rest and recharge within the safe harbor of your family. Hopefully, you’ve also decided to forgive old wounds and let go of small hurts, lead your family into service of others who are less fortunate, and bring home the hygge by being fully present to your loved ones, blessing them with your care and attention.
But now it’s time to go home, to start school or work again. The business of ordinary life will begin to displace the magic of the Christmas season. Having put on the “bond of perfection” that is love, as Saint Paul writes in the second reading, the time is drawing near when we will have to let go and let our loved ones return home, and that’s probably a bit of a let down.
The story of Hannah in the first reading today is just such a story. Having prayed earnestly to the Lord for a child, promising that she would dedicate him to religious service, God answered her prayers. Now she would have to hand over her only son at a very young age to the care of strangers in the temple. To have the strength to do that, she must have sensed that Samuel had great things to accomplish for the Lord. She must have known that God had plans to make him a light for the people and God’s servant to bring about his purposes.
Mary must have felt something similar. Losing the child Jesus in the temple, as we heard in the gospel reading today, was a foreshadowing of his ultimate mission for God. In the story, Jesus returns with his parents to Nazareth, and the next time we read of Jesus in Jerusalem will be at his triumphal entry (Luke 19:28-39), which leads to his death, at which point Mary loses Jesus, her only son, to the greatest purpose ever known: the salvation of the world.
This Christmas I hope you brought home the hygge. Now it’s time to send that coziness, warmth, and love with your relatives and loved ones, as they leave your hearth and home on their God-given missions to a waiting world.
--Father Roger Gustafson, Pastor
Father Roger Gustafson