Blame it on this year’s calendar: the Scripture readings for the 2021-2022 Christmas-Epiphany season could give us whiplash. It’s like the rapid pivoting we’ve all had to do with the COVID-19 virus and its fast-moving variants.
December 26, the day after we celebrated the birth of the Child Jesus in Bethlehem, was the feast of the Holy Family. We fast-forwarded to the panic/relief of Mary and Joseph when they lost/found the now-twelve-year-old Jesus at Passover in Jerusalem. December 28 brought us back to the beginning of the story as we grieved ruthless King Herod’s murder of innocent children.
The multiple celebrations of January 1 – the octave of Christmas, the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, and the World Day of Peace – evoked both a small Middle Eastern village and the vast world that we know, where 23 ongoing wars have each killed at least 1,000 people in the past year alone.
And then on January 2, Feast of the Epiphany, we’re brought back to the manger. We marvel at the star and pray to follow its leading, just as the mysterious Wise Ones from the East did. But we’re not meant to stop at the camels and the precious gifts. Let’s not miss the mindboggling message that Matthew’s symbolic story hints at, and Paul’s letter makes crystal clear: “the Gentiles are co-heirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” (Ephesians 3:6)
To put it bluntly, those we might consider outsiders are just as much insiders as we like to think we are. Our God calls all people beloved, precious, worthy – regardless of race, color, language, lifestyle, country of origin, annual income. There are no reserved places in the stable, no preferred seating at the table. On this Earth, our common home, fashioned in love by God, restored to grace and beauty by Christ, everyone belongs, and belongs to each other.
We are co-heirs, copartners, sisters and brothers, one family. In the New Year of Our Lord 2022, may we treat one another as though we truly believed it.
By Sr. Regina Bechtle