The word holiday, as I’m sure you know, is from the two words holy day.
So why is the Christmas holiday such a family-centered time? Well, probably because that’s the center of the day/night on which Jesus was born. Joseph, Mary, the Baby. Family.
But there were also guests. Shepherds came in from the fields to meet the family and worship the Babe whom the angels had announced so gloriously. Later, the Magi came from a far Eastern country to bring expensive gifts, and to worship the King, Messiah, whom the Old Testament prophets had foretold and whom the Wise Men believed was the fulfillment of that prophesy. So the small, new family quickly expanded to include strangers who became friends, and perhaps, later, followers of Jesus.
The Jews were very family-oriented, partly because they depended on one another during the Roman governance of their land; partly because they always had been encouraged, throughout their history, to center on family and on God. It was God, after all, Who first established family with Adam and Eve and later their children and grandchildren and the development of tribes and cultures across the world.
We all seek connection with others. Family is the foundation for that connection, and families who reach out to include those who are no blood relation are wonderful examples for their children.
We have loved having our Minnesota family here this week. The cousins enjoyed each other on Christmas Day, and will do so again before the Minnesota crew begins the drive back home. Though they see each other infrequently, they look forward to being together and after a few minutes of uncertainty, they’re having a great time, as if they’d known each other all their lives.
Certainly, the birth of the Savior was a family event. Once He began His public ministry, He developed His family of followers. Before He completed the work the Father had sent Him to do, He established the Church to become a family of believers. The Church provides fellowship, edification, comfort, and spiritual growth when it is operated along biblical principles. People who wouldn’t ordinarily know each other are brought together in the Church and become fast friends, caring for one another as family should. For many, it is the only family they have because they have moved far away from their blood families, or they have been orphaned through other circumstances.
My parents were very good about having friends/acquaintances in our home for special meals, holiday celebrations, and just good fellowship. When I was very small, we were often included in a wonderful family for the big holidays–Christmas, Thanksgiving, Fourth of July—and considered them our grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. I remember being very surprised and disappointed when I realized we weren’t truly related. What a wonderful heritage it is to be given the gift of “relatives” in that way.
Yes, Christmas is about family. Jesus was born into a family. He had brothers and sisters, and cousins, uncles, and aunts. No wonder Christmas is such a family occasion.