Christmas is often marked by spending time with family. We instinctively seek out those who have loved and nourished us as we grew in age and wisdom.

Perhaps we do this as a way of imitating the Holy Family, gathered in the cave at Bethlehem, aware that the Light of Lights has entered the world and is enlightening our homes, families and relationships.

This Christmas is probably the last I'm spending with my parents, siblings and relatives. Even then time is short: only a few days, then I will begin my pre-priesthood ordination retreat.

There is a sense that the time I spend with family in these few days is precious, something to savor and remember.

At the same time, there is an awareness that the scene at the manger was never meant to remain unchanged, but had to pass onward to the cross, onward to the resurrection. This journey of perfect faith that Jesus walked was marked at some point by not being home for feast days with His parents.

In His humanity, Jesus must have yearned for the presence of His mother at times, yearned to hear her voice and see her smile. Yet He knew that part of the bearing the cross meant giving up these moments of comfort.

Every seminarian, every priest, every consecrated man or woman walks a similar journey as Jesus, albeit with less perfect faith and less perfect resolve, and one day must face not being amidst family and friends to celebrate Christmas or Easter. The joy of the abiding presence of God is intermingled with some affective sadness. Truly, our life is not our own.

However, it is not the sadness to which I wish to draw attention, but rather the abiding sense of God, source of our joy. This is part of the marvelous paradox of the faith.

In the pouring out of the Son of God, His own self-emptying into mortal flesh, He who is beyond all thought and beyond all comprehension humbled Himself so that our joy would be full. He loved us so much that He gave over time with his family so that all might be His family.

This radical love transforms our weakness, elevates our suffering and bridges all distance and time, making communion with God and family always possible.

We are all called to live out this paradox, each in our own way. I am called to give over, and my family must give over, these special earthly times, so that I might share with them and with the whole people of God, God's coming in the flesh at Christmas Mass and on the last day.

The family with which I will celebrate the mystery of the incarnation will have expanded from a few to hundreds if not thousands of people. Their joy will mingle with my own, their lives with mine, anticipating the day when our joy will be full.

Until that day, I will savor these precious few days and celebrate the coming of our Lord, thankful that God has gifted me with the time to be with my family -- thankful, too, that He has called me to a wider family.

A blessed Christmas and God's peace unto you all.

(Deacon Chichester, a native of Columbia County, has been studying for the priesthood for the Albany Diocese at Mundelein Seminary in Illinois. He is expected to be ordained a priest in 2018.)