December 2, 2010
Dan, my husband, is a very generous man. One of the many hundreds of ways he has shown me this generosity is by sharing his two sisters, Kathy and Ann, with me. At times one must absolutely have family members near and ready to live into the important roles that only those closest to us can fill. For example, at times of stress and transition our family members have unwritten "job descriptions" that contribute to the success of the family in ways that they alone are uniquely equipped to function. Christmas is another time when certain things must be done, and certain family members are tacitly assigned to do them.
Ann reported on Facebook, for instance, that she is baking cookies traditional to the Ray family. It will be important for Dan and I to have some of them out here in California, and important for our daughter, Virginia, to have some down in El Paso where she and her new husband have just moved. These historical connections stabilize us and give us the foundations we need to anchor us in place and time. They help to give us context.
As we approach Thursday's text, let's imagine what foundations we can anchor in place this season.
Prayer: "Holy God, as you have given the gift of family let us recognize the unique place we occupy within it, especially at this time of year."
Acts 1:12-17 and 21-26
Matthias Chosen to Replace Judas
12 Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day's walk[a] from the city. 13 When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. 14 They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.
15 In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty) 16 and said, "Brothers and sisters,[b] the Scripture had to be fulfilled in which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus….
21 Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living among us, 22 beginning from John's baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection."
23 So they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. 2425 to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs." 26 Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.
s. 17 He was one of our number and shared in our ministry."
Sometimes death, social circumstances, geographical distance, ideologies, and unfortunate events cause unwanted shifts in the make-up of family organisms. The disciples, although unrelated by blood, were a communion of sisters and brothers who had definite "job descriptions" and relied upon each other to fulfill those roles. Certain of the women supported the ministry with their social connections and financial resources. The Twelve, about whom the most is known from ancient writings, served as the nucleus of the ministry.
We notice Peter taking more initiative in Acts and stepping up in leadership now that Jesus is gone. We also notice that it is important to the group to replace Judas, to find a Twelfth in order to make the ministry whole once again.
It is important to consider the wholeness of our families and of our communities in times of stress such as that suffered by the early followers of Christ in the weeks and months after the crucifixion and the resurrection. It is important in our families here and now that the important job descriptions not go unaddressed when a family organism is disrupted.
Here's a simple Advent musing to try or not as you wish. On a little slip of paper, write three things your family used to do during this season that you miss. It can be things like cutting your own Christmas tree, baking those peculiar blue-frosted cookies, or hearing the Christmas story read aloud by your grandfather. Decide the place the item occupies in your personal, family context. If it really doesn't matter if anyone ever experienced it again, thank God for the gift it once was and let it go into the mists of Christmas past. If, on the other hand, it calls out to you as part of the context of how your family understands Christmas, ask God to help you grasp how it could be reincorporated into your practice of family Christmas here and now.
This is NOT (not, not, not) to say that you must take on a new family assignment in your already full job description. Rather, it is to suggest that opportunities exist for the Matthias and Justus within your family to step into the limelight and explore a developing role in shaping the context in which you experience this season. Could a favorite nephew read the Christmas story from the Bible? What if a son's new bride made the shortbread cookies this year? What a way to show radical hospitality in a world that God is constantly reforming! It truly would be a way of being generous.
Closing prayer: "God of movement, nothing stands still for a minute with you! As this holy season unfolds, surprise me with insights about how to help and support my family to continue to evolve while establishing stability in new and exciting ways. Help us wait for you with a forward-thinking attitude. Amen."
Oh, and just in case you were tempted to think that Dan does all the sharing around here, this is not the case. I have two challenging and wonderful semi-tough, almost-grown sons who are discovering that I am willing to share them with a very smart stepfather. But that's the subject for another discussion.
For further reading today:
Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19