by June Friesen
The International Day of Families was established by the United Nations in 1993 as a way to raise awareness of issues faced by families throughout the world and highlight the important role that families hold in communities.
I was intrigued as I read the history behind the establishment of this day. The idea was to highlight the importance of the family system, how it has changed over the years, and the differences that there are in cultures throughout the world. During my lifetime I have seen many changes in the family systems and cultures. Above you will see three generations. I am the child and the year is about 1953. Both of my grandmothers and my mother are pictured here. These three women taught me many things as I grew up. My one grandmother was a great seamstress and she created blankets as well as aprons out of scraps of material she had left after sewing dresses, skirts and blouses. My other grandmother was a great baker and I was blessed that she allowed me to put sprinkles on cookies and help her bake. My mother taught me so much – indeed I was able to be the homemaker, wife and mother I am because of the many things I learned from her example as well as my grandmothers. It is interesting that I have many memories of extended family at large gatherings and often it included aunts and uncles of both sides of my family. These gatherings were possible as there was not the easy mobility of society to pick up and move as there is in today’s world. As we have moved forward in time we find that not only are families separated by distance on the North American continent but all over the world, so I can readily see the importance of establishing this special day. In the Scriptures we also see how God felt that family was important from the beginning. When He created humanity He created male and female and then encouraged them to reproduce.
Genesis 1:27-28: God created human beings; he created them godlike, reflecting God’s nature. He created them male and female.
God blessed them:
“Prosper! Reproduce! Fill Earth! Take charge!
Be responsible for fish in the sea and birds in the air, for every living thing that moves on the face of Earth.”
God not only created humanity, but He gave humanity more knowledge and greater ability to be able to think and learn. I am not sure if you have ever pondered the immense difference that there is between humanity and all of the other animal kingdom. He also put humanity in charge of His entire creation – Wow!
As we read and study the Scriptures we see how important family was throughout the Old Testament as well as the New Testament. I also like how when God chose to send Jesus His Son to this earth to improve the relationship between God and humanity, He chose a human family to be the earthly parents of His Son.
Luke 2:1-12: So Joseph went from the Galilean town of Nazareth up to Bethlehem in Judah, David’s town, for the census. As a descendant of David, he had to go there. He went with Mary, his fiancée, who was pregnant. 6-7 While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. She gave birth to a son, her firstborn. She wrapped him in a blanket and laid him in a manger, because there was no room in the hostel. 8-12 There were shepherds camping in the neighborhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God’s angel stood among them and God’s glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master.
Yes, Jesus was raised in a family where there were other children as well. I believe this is an affirmation to humanity about how important family is to God. There is not a lot mentioned about Jesus and His family but we do know he spent time with His earthly father learning the trade of his father. We also know that they traveled to the Passover celebration at least once as a family. I suspect that they went more than just that one time. We do not hear too much of time spent with His earthly family after he entered His time of ministry however we do know that His earthly mother Mary was present at some of the events, including at His crucifixion.
So how may we as people today celebrate family? Celebrate extended family? Celebrate God’s family in the Church? Celebrate integrated family? Celebrate other family cultures?
As I mentioned I grew up with many extended family gatherings. I learned the importance of having family connections and communication although I also saw the difficulties that resulted from decisions some made about where they moved and lived. I myself was one who moved away from my home and home state when I got married.
Let me share a bit of my own life after I became an adult. When I was married I moved 2,000 miles away from my immediate family. For the first couple of years we lived in close proximity to my husband’s family. This allowed us to develop extended family relationships with his family. Then we made our first big move as a young family as my husband began his career in ministry. We were over 2,000 miles from both of our immediate families so we began to build close friendships in the community/communities where we were living. We did our best to keep family ties with parents/grandparents but as our children became adults and moved away that became more difficult. We also have collected many people around us over the years who are like family – many of them from other places/countries as well as some who are native Arizonans.
Today I would like to challenge us to maybe think outside the usual when it comes to building stronger family relationships. I will share a couple of ideas that my husband and I have incorporated into our lives.
First of all, our two granddaughters live 2,000 miles away from us. How does one build and celebrate family? There are visits back and forth but with job responsibilities those are limited. We have worked hard to make some special memories. One year we rented a cabin in a big park for 5 days. The girls were about four and six – they still talk of that trip and would love to go back. Another time we spent several days in the Grand Canyon and northern Arizona – another thing they would love to do again. But then there was covid and no traveling. So, I began to mail packages of fun things to make, to do, fun treats – they never knew what to expect. Sometimes there were special instructions as to how to open them – like the time I opened a package of little bouncy balls – and scattered them in the package. Open package and dump out – not sure who had more fun, the parents or the girls as balls rolled all over the floor. The girls are now teenagers but we still have some special times we create when we can make memories for all of us.
Here is another example of family for us. It is our present church family. While our meeting in person was interrupted by Covid we now meet every month in the park for a time of fellowship and encouragement. If you would ask any of the people, refugees as well as people who have lived here all their lives, we are family. We also try to make it a time to make memories as new people come and join us from time to time as well as we try to have toys for the children – bubbles are a fun thing that they all enjoy. On the other Sundays we enjoy meeting via zoom.
I have shared some thoughts, experiences and ideas you may want to consider in your own family and family celebration. But in our world today I just want to say – celebrating family no matter where you live can be an exciting and worthwhile experience. One more idea is doing cultural exchange – visiting and/or staying with people of another culture. Yes, it seems a bit scary possibly – but we have hosted people from other countries in our home and it has been a great learning experience. We have also stayed in homes in other countries or with other people groups. Adventures like these help one learn to embrace other cultures as you learn why they do certain things and maybe why they have some of the habits that they have. God has created every one of us – given us different features, colors, personalities etc. Yes, it is International Family Day – do something special as a family – maybe even explore together another culture, try some of their traditional foods.
Scriptures from The Message translation.
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