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Feast of the Holy Family (Ages 6-9): Ordinary and Extraordinary


After a long Advent, the feast of Christmas has finally arrived! We have only just begun to celebrate. The first Sunday of the Christmas season is the Feast of the Holy Family. Last week we listened to the moment when Mary says "yes" to the Plan of God, "yes" to bringing this life into the world. We know this is an extraordinary moment. We can wonder if that is what life is like for the Holy Family—one extraordinary moment after another. Is that what participating in the Plan of God is like?

When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, Mary and Joseph brought the child Jesus up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”

What is happening here? Twice we hear, "the law of the Lord." The Jewish people treasure the Law given to them by God. Mary and Joseph follow what the Word of God tells all Jewish families to do. They return to the community after the birth of their son with an offering of thanksgiving. They bring their firstborn son to the Temple to offer him to God. This is a special day, but it is also a rather ordinary event. All Jewish families do this. They are being obedient. They obey the Word.

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.

Here is a new person: Simeon. What can we say about him? St. Luke tells us that he is righteous and devout. That means he does what is right, and he devotes himself to God. What would that mean? What would he do? What would his days be like? We know he is a good person; like Mary and Joseph, he says "yes" to the Plan of God. But would we say his life is ordinary or extraordinary? Or...both?

Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple;

(going to Temple—an ordinary event)

and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law,

(customary means ordinary)

Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying, “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”
Simeon takes Jesus into his arms! That must have surprised Mary and Joseph!

In the middle of doing something ordinary, Mary and Joseph meet Simeon. While doing something ordinary, Simeon meets Jesus. These three people obey God, and something extraordinary happens.

A man Mary and Joseph have never met before, takes their child into his arms, and speaks of salvation and light and glory. Mary and Joseph know that their child is special—they have been told that he is holy—but they must grow used to this. Following the Plan of God must become ordinary to them because this extraordinary event surprises them:

And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him.

They are amazed; this means that the Holy Spirit fills them with the gift of awe and wonder. God surprises even Mary and Joseph!

There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshipped there with fasting and prayer night and day.

Here is another person devoted to God. We know what an ordinary day in the life of Anna is like. She prays and worships God all the time. Can we say she participates in the Plan of God? Yes! We can call her an obedient servant—someone who obeys God.

At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.

In the midst of her ordinary obedience, something extraordinary happens. Anna meets Jesus! She praises God and tells everyone who she has seen.

When Mary and Joseph had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favour of God was upon him.

After this extraordinary day at the Temple, Mary and Joseph and Jesus return to their home town. We do not hear many details about Jesus as he grows up. His life unfolds in the usual way—pretty ordinary like ours. He learns and studies and works. He obeys Mary and Joseph. He obeys God.

We know he becomes strong and fills with wisdom. The Holy Spirit gives wisdom as gift so we know God is with him. Ordinary or extraordinary?

It seems like the Holy Family's life is not only made up of extraordinary moments. It seems that much of the time, maybe even most of the time, their life is ordinary like ours. They obey God. Do they pray? Absolutely. Their life is like ours. We know, though, that in the midst of their ordinary obedience, daily saying "yes" to the Plan of God, extraordinary things happen. If we, too, daily say "yes" to God, will extraordinary things happen in the midst of our ordinary obedience?

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