The movie Home Alone begins with a scene of the entire family gathered in the house the night before they are getting ready to go on a trip to Paris. There’s all kinds of chaos, and Kevin -who is the youngest boy in the family, feels left out. Everyone seems to be either picking on him or ignoring him; he even gets made fun of, for not knowing how to pack his luggage. At one point he gets so frustrated, he says “When I grow up and get married, I’m living alone.”
Well Kevin seems to keep getting into trouble and his whole family continues to treat him poorly. So he finally says to his mom, “Everyone in this family hates me…” and she blurts back “then maybe you should ask Santa for a new family…” Kevin continues, “I hate this family… I don’t want to see any of you again..." Then he says to himself, "I wish they would all just disappear."
The next morning Kevin wakes up and to his surprise, he can't find anyone. He searches the house and calls for his mom until he realizes it is empty; there is no one there; he is all alone! Then it comes to him, “I MADE my family disappear!”
In the next scene, the family is on the plane to Paris -Kevin's parents are even in first class, with the kids back in coach. Suddenly Kevin's mother has this feeling -that she forgot something, and then she realizes --- "KEVIN!!!!"
Seemingly, she begins to ask - “How could we do this… we forgot him… what kind of mother am I?”
This moment is a wonderful parallel to what Mary must have felt, and how she must have reacted as they traveled with the caravan and she realized that her son wasn’t with them.
In the movie Home Alone, this time of separation, though painful, allows Kevin to come to appreciate his family. It also gives him the freedom to discover how much he really can do on his own. It gives him the chance to realize his own gifts and come of age. It is a time of great freedom.
For Jesus as well it was a time of coming into His own. In the Jewish custom, it was normal for a child at around age 12 to begin to take vows and responsibility. Here Jesus has chosen for Himself to stay behind, and finds Himself in the temple teaching the teachers, asking questions, and answering them.
When Mary and Joseph finally find Jesus, they are amazed by this. "But why?", Jesus asks them. “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house.” Try as they might, neither Mary nor Joseph understood what Jesus was saying to them.
As they did not understand back then, to this day it is still hard for us to understand how a 12 year old could sit in the midst of teachers and astound them. Jesus tells us that it is the children who have wisdom. But, do we really believe this?
Do we believe that our children have something to offer us? All this stuff in Scripture... 'wives be subordinate to your husbands', 'children obey your parents', 'husbands love your wives', and 'fathers do not provoke your children' -should not cause us to nudge each other in the pews and say “SEE!”, rather it should help us see what we are called to do. And that is to love, respect, and forgive others, while allowing them to love, respect, and forgive us.
Sometimes we may wish that we had different families or wish that they would just go away -but like in the movie Home Alone, it’s not long before Kevin realizes how empty his house is without his family there. At that moment, he pulls out a family picture -and looking at it, he says "I hope you come back". Then he kisses it. Kevin realizes that instead of presents, all he wants for Christmas is to have his family back.
It is with our families (no matter how dysfunctional they are), that we learn to love. And it can be done through the simplest of actions:
"Put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one Body. And be thankful." (Colossians 3:12-17)
We don’t have to have all the problems in our families solved -and it doesn’t have to be perfect, but if we can begin with small acts of compassion, of gentleness, of humility, of patience, and of forgiveness, we will find Jesus once more and He will bring us together in His temple.
Then you will come to find that times of separation will be turned into times of growth, of realizing the grace that is in our lives and the blessing that our families are. Mary let her son go for a time and allowed Him to begin to find His mission and calling as the Son of God. Are we willing to trust that God will guide them and care for them?
Ultimately, Kevin is brought back together with his family. The first words out of his mother's mouth as she hugs & kisses him, "Oh Kevin, I’m so sorry." The moment is one of great reconciliation, forgiveness, and mutual love.
Our families can become separated, but God desires to bring them together and to bring growth out of the separation.
Our Christmas gift is Jesus, finding Jesus at the center of our families as he brings us back together through reconciliation.
So what did Jesus gift you with this Christmas? How has He helped you to discover your own vocation, your own mission, your own way of loving? And how has He helped you to allow another to be free to find their own?