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 | By Veronica Szczygiel, assistant director of online learning at Forham University's Graduate School of Education

The Holy Family Belongs to Each One of Us


"Every year I marvel at the way each culture depicted the Holy Family in its own image and traditional garb."

My mother has collected more than 100 Nativity sets from all around the world, acquired on her travels with my father or given as gifts from friends and relatives. Each one has its unique story, such as the clay set a priest friend brought from his home region in India or the traditional tinfoil and candy wrapper set from my family in Krakow, Poland. These Nativities were all handcrafted from material native to their country: Slovakian straw, Kyrgyzstani wool felt, Kenyan banana fiber and Peruvian and Mexican colorfully painted clay, to name a few. Every year, as she unwraps in order to display these delicate works of art, I marvel at the way each culture depicted the Holy Family in its own image and traditional garb. It’s a beautiful testament to how Mary, Joseph and Jesus really belong to all of us.

For what Christmas is truly about is the fact that God, divine creator of all, manifested himself as a human being. In this time of turmoil and racial tension, let us remember that God transcends boundaries of race, color and culture. Though the Holy Family lived in a specific time and place in the history of our world (ancient Israel), Jesus lived, suffered and died for us all. He specifically asked his apostles to evangelize throughout the world so that his message of hope and everlasting life could be spread to all peoples, for he is Savior of the world, not Savior of some. In fact, Jesus himself tells us that he came so that all “might have life and have it more abundantly.” (Jn 10:10)

God sent his only Son to become one of us and to show us how to live our lives in good and holy ways. His redemptive love goes above and beyond barriers of language or experience.

This Christmas, let us open ourselves not only to the possibility of Christ’s dwelling in our hearts but also to the embrace of all people as our brothers and sisters in him. Let us humble ourselves, be patient with each other and love each other – all of whom were made “in the image of God.” (Gn 1:27) If God fashioned each of us in his own likeness, surely we are all his children, no matter what we look like. This is the message and the hope that Christ’s birth brings around Christmastime. I’m glad my mom’s nativities remind me of that each year.