The Christmas family

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At the carol service I attended on Sunday evening it occurred to me that in Mary, Joseph and Jesus we have a prime example of an alternative family structure. 

As a family law solicitor and mediator practising in Hampshire I see clients whose family make-ups reflect the traditional nuclear family, and a whole variety of others.  These include such make-ups as step-family members, unmarried partners, half-siblings, same-sex partners, surrogate mothers and so on.

Mary was most likely a teenage girl who was unmarried and pregnant.  She was at serious risk of being ostracised or worse in the society in which she lived.  She was engaged to Joseph who had in mind to break their engagement quietly in light of her pregnancy.  Joseph stands by Mary after an angel visits him to tell him about the Christ child about to be born, whom they are to call Jesus.  Mary is therefore an unmarried teenage mother, Joseph becomes a step-parent, and I guess the children Mary and Joseph subsequently have are Jesus' half-siblings. 

Mary and Joseph were two seemingly insignificant human beings, who made the tough and long journey to Bethlehem whilst Mary was pregnant.  I assume their social status and unmarried state contributed to there being no room at the inn and why Mary ended up having to give birth amongst the mess and dirt of a cattle shed.  The story reminds us that whilst the emperors and governors of the time were making plans to be remembered by issuing decrees for a census to be taken of the entire Roman world, it was these seemingly insignificant people who are remembered at Christmas.  They were frowned upon and endured a long tough journey but at this time of year they are celebrated.  This reminds me that sometimes it is the families and individuals who appear to have no hope and are scorned by some in society who could turn out to be the ones to do something amazing and change the world.

I wish all readers a peaceful Christmas and a very happy new year!