Once Upon a Family...

Published December 25, 2023 by SMBC

Christmas is a time for families. We delight in watching children experiencing all that the season brings. Is there anything more joyful than a child at Christmas? Of seeing their anticipation for what’s in store? We travel to be with parents or children knowing that when we’re with family, we catch afresh the wonder of the season and the promise that there is a place for us. It’s no accident that we share Christmas as families. Christmas is about a family. 

Even more importantly, Christmas is about God entrusting Himself, through Jesus, to a family. Think about it—God actually entrusting Himself to a young couple who have no real clue about what they are getting into. 

The Scripture tells us that Joseph and Mary—who was great with child—traveled from Galilee to Jerusalem for a census. It was an arduous journey: the road was not paved and donkeys don’t have smooth suspension. They arrived in Joseph’s family’s town, but no one welcomed them— “there was no room in the inn,” we’re told. Perhaps the scandal of a pregnancy before a wedding was too much for his relatives, but they found a berth in a barn and Jesus found a crib in a manger. They made do. And God made a family. 

If Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus are the prototypical family of Christmas, what does that tell us about the family God is making for us? I think it starts with the truth that family is a miracle. And whether your family is the people who live in your house or apartment or the people in your Sunday School, you have a family. God has placed you in a family; God has given you people who love you and who want to be with you. Whether you have felt included or excluded, there is a place for you. In fact, all through the Bible, the people who felt most excluded turn out to be at the very center of God’s care and His sovereign plan. Second, our place in God’s purpose and plan depends on God—not on us. A seat at the table is a gift of grace, not a place of merit. Third, there is wonder ahead. God is still on the loose in the world. God is still calling us into families and inviting new brothers and sisters into the family. 

And, if God is leading us, this is a story that will have a happy ending. Disney can dream it. Fables can say it. But only the life which Jesus offers will prove to be abundant in quality, redemptive in nature, and eternal in duration. It’s only in Jesus that we really do get to “live happily ever after.”

I hope you have read the devotions in this Advent book and now know more about the family of God for you in this place. This family. Your family. For there is a place and a promise of welcome for you here. 

— Steve Wells