Home for the Holidays

By Alex Macias

Last year I read Brian Bantum’s Redeeming Mulatto. In it, Bantum compares persons of mixed race to the dual (human and divine) natures of Christ and recognizes the church, comprised of those born of flesh and baptized into the Spirit, as a family superseding our biological families. It’s a helpful image – the church as a mixed family – supported by Scripture both implicitly and explicitly. I was particularly drawn to it being a person of mixed ethnicity. My mom’s parents immigrated from Ecuador and Colombia and my dad’s grandparents from the UK and Western Europe. Many of my parent’s siblings have married across color lines as well, and our family gatherings are now quite the ethnic rainbow.

While my family tends to get together frequently, I now live halfway across the country, and Christmas is one of the few times a year that I get to see all of them in one house. Not only are we a large and diverse family, we’re also very good at adopting friends into it. There are the lifelong family friends, the current significant others, the foreign exchange students and the people my aunt met on the street that day (a fact my dad has often used to argue against hosting.) It’s a big, beautiful, chaotic mess of people eating, laughing, and randomly bursting into song. I LOVE IT.

When my daughter was born almost four years ago, she was first presented to the family at the Christmas party. Everyone was ecstatic to welcome her and demonstrated it with completely overwhelming chatter, shouting and grabbing at her to which she responded by jutting out her tiny, quivering lower lip and bawling. (This is similar to how my husband responded when he was introduced at the family Christmas party.) Despite her sheer terror, she was in good hands. This was her debut into the family where she belonged and was cherished, much like our baptism is our debut into the family of God.

This sounds lovely, doesn’t it? But let’s be real for a minute here. Our family is not perfect. It’s spotted with its grudges, betrayals, and addictions. These things are, for the most part, forgotten at Christmas, but just like other families we are fully capable of having a great time together one day out of the year and then not talking for months. As a church family, we may be good at doing the same thing. We get together on Sundays and smile, sing, and act (maybe even pretend?) like we like each other, and then go about our business the rest of the week without much interaction.

But if baptism demonstrates that we have joined the family of God, what does it mean to really act as brothers and sisters?

I know segregated Sundays are still the reality, and even in the areas where multi-ethnic churches are flourishing, there are still ethnic, cultural, socioeconomic, etc. barriers that prevent us from really walking with our brothers and sisters. But we must remember that the Church is at its best, that it is living into its identity, when we agree to share our lives and our hearts with our fellow believers across these barriers. This is real fellowship: sharing in each other’s joys and their sorrows.

In a healthy family, each member strives to protect, advocate for, and nurture the others. As a family of believers, let’s take Romans 12:15 seriously and spend more time listening, laughing, and lamenting with each other even if it feels unnatural or uncomfortable. And not just on the holidays.


9 thoughts on “Home for the Holidays

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  1. Alex, I love the stories you tell here–and juxtaposing the reality of our family interactions with those of our church family helps remove some of the rose-colored glasses we tend to don. In other words, I love the idea of church family and biological family, but both can be difficult and painful and, then, as a result, incredibly disappointing. Thanks for this challenge and invitation.

    1. Thanks Cathy! I think about the church as family a lot – probably because I miss mine so much! I guess I’m trying to reiterate that these moments we have set apart (i.e. communion for the church and Christmas parties for the biological family) should remind us of who we are and inspire us to share, connect, reconcile, etc. more readily.

  2. Thanks Alex for writing this post! I greatly appreciate your reminder of the church as the family of God. This is a very important and necessary area to reflect together and thanks for providing this space to do ti.
    Thinking about families needs to make us humble and compassionate since issues and brokenness are found everywhere. That is why, I resonate with the implication you make that the fact that just like human families are imperfect and broken; the church is broken and imperfect, however still the family of God. We know that the church still focuses on the wrong issues, overlooks things that break the heart of God, and sadly continues to promote competition and issues that build walls between each other. This might make us disappointed or discouraged when we see this incongruence.
    However, this incongruence does not erase the truth that we are family and were originated from the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but should make us more aware of the great need to become faithful recipients of God’s grace. The questions that i continue asking with you is: How as a family can we rejoice and mourn together when we all carry different burdens from our stories? when power differentials make unequal relationship dangerous? when different socio economics painfully divide us? What are the resources given by God when we can come together in the midst of our most obvious differences?
    As I read your post i reflected on the fact that in baptism, as Weborg says: We all have been under the water. In the same way, in the Eucharist we all sit at the same table. What are the implications of baptism and the eucharist when we see the church gathering as the family of God?

    1. Carlos, I love your thoughts on this! Your questions make me think of the importance of vulnerability. Relationship involves risk. I think we have to accept that we’re going to offend each other, be sensitive to the suffering of others, continue to share even when it’s painful, and trust that God heals. Not only do I need to be vulnerable with my church family, I need to recognize that others are being vulnerable when they open up to me.

  3. Thanks, Alex, for your post last week. I love how you describe family dynamics paralleled between the biological family and God’s family, and I love your invitation for us to be God’s family with one another–real, deep, messy, beautiful family. Thank you!

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