“When they 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 favor of God was upon him.” Luke 2:39-40

My friend and mentor Dr. Diana Garland gave me eyes to see ways in which family relationships are reflected throughout the scriptures. Seldom harmonious, often contentious, but always passionate, family relations provide the backdrop of the events that shaped our faith. Cain and Able, Abraham and Isaac, Joseph and his brothers, Noah’s household on an ark; these and so many other familiar stories are family narratives.

When God becomes flesh in order to dwell among us, Dr. Garland reminds us that God could have chosen any number of ways to make this happen. But, given the nature and the history of our faith, it should come as no surprise that God’s incarnation would be woven into a family story. I came across the following quote from Dr. Garland while preparing a lecture in family ministry. It is a beautiful reminder that every act of discipleship we grow into was first an act of a loving, nurturing family:

The disciples were called to follow Jesus, but Mary and Joseph were first called to guide him. The disciples were called to learn from Jesus, but Mary and Joseph were first called to teach him. The disciples were called to stand beside him, but Mary and Joseph were first called to help him learn to stand.

The disciples were called to suffer with Jesus the pain of his death so that he might give the gift of life; Mary and Joseph were called to suffer for him the pain of birth and then to let him go. God chose to do it this way. God could have chosen to bring Jesus full grown, walking in on the scene across Lake Galilee. Instead, Jesus was born as a helpless infant, to young parents divinely called to nurture him toward his calling. (Family Ministry, by Diana Garland, p. 94.)

Perhaps there is no better time than Advent to celebrate the fact that our kinship of faith, and our common inheritance as children of God, was first manifest in the tentative yet loving hands of Christ’s parents.

Dr. Steve Sumerel and his wife, Marie, are the proud parents of John Luke. Steve has served as your minister of adult learning for seven years.