A time of joyful celebrations and lonely separation

By Ben Smith, Director of the Office of Life, Marriage and Family.

Our Christmas family gatherings are bound to feel different this year. We will be reconnecting face to face with our family members from all around Tasmania and the mainland for the first time in a long while. This renewal of family ties is of significant importance for people to share their joys and sorrows of 2020 with those who know them intimately.

There are two aspects to these gatherings that will help us relate to the first Christmas celebrated in Bethlehem. Firstly, one very exciting feature of this year’s Christmas gatherings is the presence of new born babies. We may be seeing babies born during the lockdown for the first time. The joy that a new born baby brings to a family is tremendous especially if we have been longing for a few months to have that first physical encounter. With this experience fresh in your mind and heart, turn to look at a Nativity scene and let your imagination lead you into the first encounters between the baby Jesus with Mary and Joseph, with the shepherds and with the wise men. Not only were they marveling at the beauty of a newborn but also at the boy who would “ransom captive Israel” whose birth had been prophesied for centuries.

The second aspect of this year’s festive season that connects with the first Christmas story is the experience of social isolation we have had in 2020. The Holy Family had to flee to Egypt very soon after Jesus was born to escape the clutches of King Herod’s soldiers. Consequently Jesus, Mary and Joseph were separated from their extended family and homeland for a number of years. This experience of the Holy Family connects with those who are lonely and socially isolated at Christmas. How can we reach out to others this Christmas who are cut off from their extended family who may be overseas?

Have a happy and Holy Christmas this year and enjoy reconnecting with your family. Treasure in your heart the joy of the first encounter with a new born and the need to look after those cut off from their extended families.

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