In Mark 6, Jesus was rejected by family and Nazareth neighbors. It is sometimes hard to be patient with close ones and keep loving them. It is even harder to remain authentic with them and keep telling them the exact right amount of truth in the right way, and not getting bitter when they scorn you. Jesus fully and faithfully preached at Nazareth. We must be willing to do that, to be prophetic with relatives. I find that very difficult. And we also need to wait for God to work. I find that difficult too.
Jesus enjoyed the support of his followers but marveled at the unbelief of his people of Nazareth. We should expect the same at Christmas: a mixture of the rejection of the Holy Family and of the message of the Son, along with the embrace of the true worshipers. But also, we should not lose heart. In Mark 3, we are told that Jesus’ mother and brothers thought he was out of his mind, to the point that they started an intervention. Later, his mother and brothers became his most faithful followers. According to the earliest records, his half brother, James the Just, was the writer of the book of James, the first bishop of Jerusalem, and a martyr. The family of Jesus included his cousin John, of course, Zechariah and Elizabeth. According to some early records, Cleopas and his mother, Mary, were also kin, which is likely why the former’s son became the second bishop of Jerusalem. New friends, such as Mary Magdalene and Salome, became like family. Descendants of the family of Jesus are remembered as being in the Church for the next two hundred years. Eusebius, in his Church History, identifies them as the “Desposyni,” (those belonging to the Lord).
But Eusebius also reports of them:
“Still surviving of the Lord’s family were the grandsons of Jude, who was said to be his brother according to the flesh, and they were informed on as being descendants of David. The evocatus brought them before Domitian Caesar, who, like Herod, was afraid of the coming of Christ. Domitian asked them if they were descended from David, and they admitted it.”
Eusebius is referring to how Domitian wanted to kill the family of Jesus in order to destroy all memory of him. But of course this was futile. It is just as futile for relatives to resist God’s work. So, take heart at Christmas. Your difficult family member may become a James the Just or a Mary Magdalene.
Besides, nothing gets you in touch with the first Christmas like getting the door shut in your face and having to take refuge in a stable.