Christmas From Afar
This is my first Christmas alone.
I am not alone in the sense that I am literally by myself, because I have my sweet little Leo to keep me company and I have my husband who comes home after a Christmas morning shift.
But this is my first Christmas far from home. For the past twenty-four years of my life, I have traveled home or been home for this day. I remember packing for the break in college, ecstatic to see family and using it as motivation to gruel my way through final exams. Christmas was magical, Christmas was warmth and cheer and family and a deeply spiritual pick-me-up. It was the most beautiful day of the year.
But this year, I go without.
I go without the company of my dearest family, I go without the familiar candle lit church, I go without the same old Donkey Bells reading, and I go without the many undeserved gifts.
This Christmas, I also go without my dad.
Christmas was always his favorite holiday. Giving gifts was his favorite part of the year, and I usually stayed up with him on Christmas Eve wrapping the many odd but beloved gifts he had picked out. Dad had a very particular way of decorating the Christmas tree, with the ornaments and tinsel hanging just so. Last year, he ended up dislocating his shoulder while playing hockey in a Christmas Eve skate, but he still was up and about decorating that damn tree, wincing silently, arm in sling, because decorating that tree was what he lived for, what motivated him on long work days in December. Even when we were poor and destitute, watching his children open their gifts on Christmas morning was something he was willing to sacrifice anything for to see happen.
Of course, some argument or meltdown always happened during Christmas day in our household, but the evening always wrapped up with us curled up on our uncomfortable couch watching It's A Wonderful Life. Dad would always be in tears at the end of the movie, and would tenderly enter into the same speech he made year after year. "Ah, just think about how fast life is going," he used to say. "In a few years, we will all be different and away and just think about how we would give anything in the world to come back to this moment, right here, right now."
Ah, Dad, how sharply and wistfully and painfully and beautifully true were those words.
Because, this Christmas, I feel that not only am I away from my home in Michigan, but I also am far away from my eternal home.
This year, I am reminded that us, the human race, is far from home. We are away from where we really belong.
And Christmas is hope that we can finally arrive home.
We all know that Christmas isn't about gifts and cookies and snow, but it also isn't just about our earthly family and good cheer. Christmas means a re-opening of our true dwelling place, an invitation to come back to our real and truest family, and a tangible hope that our home awaits us oh so soon.
Christmas, for me, is like Pentwater with my dad, on the very last day that I spent with him. Looking at houses, sipping coffee, taking leisurely walks, dreaming of the future, praying softly.
Peace, peace, peace.
We are all going home. Christmas, and the incarnate word laying two thousand years ago in the hay, and the death which broke through time and space, reassures me that, yes, I am going home. Home is where my dad is this Christmas.
So, while I am far from home this Christmas, I believe in the home that is coming.
And I am waiting, waiting to be home.
“You keep us waiting. You, the God of all time, Want us to wait. For the right time in which to discover Who we are, where we are to go, Who will be with us, and what we must do. So thank you … for the waiting time.”