The season of Advent is a period of 4 weeks leading up to Christmas that is characterized by expectant waiting and preparing to celebrate the birth of Jesus. This December a few writers in our community came together with a vision to write a reflection for each week of Advent built around our theme of COMING HOME.
WEEK ONE / the hope of home
The theme of “I’ll be home for Christmas” is a very literal one for me. It’s the only time each year I know I’ll get to visit my parents in the town in I grew up in—a quirky little city called Roswell, New Mexico, 2,400 miles from where I live now in Providence, Rhode Island. I look forward to this trip all year long.
Christmas has always been my favorite holiday: the colorful greens and reds of wreaths and garlands, the sparkling Christmas lights, the beautiful classical songs, the entire spirit of Christmas. There is a feeling of anticipation at the upcoming joy of family traditions: Christmas Eve with friends who make homemade Mexican food, midnight mass with candles and carols, late night present-wrapping, and the dawn of Christmas morning—the stillness and quiet before everyone else wakes up, the transformation of the tree from a couple of presents to many, the soft glow of morning light, the mystery of it all.
And that’s not even the Jesus miracle part!
But during my last year in graduate school, I was planning my vacation home and waxing poetic about Christmas to the person I was dating at the time. “Don’t you just LOVE Christmas?” I asked, ready to launch into my Christmas glee, when he responded with a firm, “No.”
His response stopped the rest of the words from pouring out of my mouth. “Wait. What? You don’t like Christmas?”
“Nope, can’t say that I do.”
“Why?” I said so incredulously I came across as if I were accusing him of being a robot, with my true, underlying question seeping through: “What kind of a human being doesn’t like Christmas?”
He shrugged. “After my parents divorced, it wasn’t really something I looked forward to—racing from one house to the other, deciding who got Christmas Eve, who got Christmas day, the inevitable fighting because us kids would be late wherever we ended up…” his voice trailed off. Then he put on the mask of a smile. “It’s not a big deal; it’s just not my favorite time of the year.”
There are a handful of times in my life in which my world has been split open with the unveiling of a truth I’ve been oblivious to, and this was one of those times. In my head I thought, “Is that how my other childhood friends whose parents were divorced felt, and I just never noticed?” I thought about my friends who’d lost family members—parents, siblings, grandparents—and I wondered, “Is Christmas a time of sadness for them, too?”
My heart broke because of my own blindness, my ignorance to all-too-common situations that point to the broken world we live in, one in which pain and suffering are all too real, and how sometimes they are most highlighted in the midst of other people’s joy.
It is those friends to whom I write today. I want to say that it is for you that Jesus came into this world—the hope and light of life—to create a family of us all: the fatherless, the foreigner, the orphan, the widow, the poor, the suffering, the heartbroken, the lost. He came so that we might have everlasting joy, the kind that transcends our circumstances and our past, and offers us a seat at the table, an embrace at the door, and a warm welcome home.
My prayer is that this holiday season you can find hope in the Christmas story, because the Bible, at its most basic level, is a love story—one that was written for you. May this Advent lead you down a well-trodden path to a place of anticipation and joy—that no matter where you plan to be this year, that you find yourself coming home for Christmas, too.
+ Jennifer Currier
WEEK TWO / the invitation
When I was a boy, my brother and I were staying with our friend and his family on their farm in Maine. It was an open and wild place where we could adventure and explore to our heart’s content. One afternoon we were hunting in the woods with our fathers. We had with much effort stashed ourselves up in a tall tree, where we giggled and talked as the sun slowly slipped down. We were oblivious to the approach of night until, echoing through the woods at a distance, the call of our friend’s father snapped us from our reverie. All of a sudden we feared being stuck in the dark forest at night, and scrambled hurriedly down, stumbling our way through the swiftly velveting woods and into the clear. The stars were peering out and the cold creeping in as we made our way back across the misting fields. And then suddenly I saw it, and the memory has since burned itself into my mind. There in the distance, a single light shone from the farmhouse, across that dark space. And it was as if a match had been struck within me. I suddenly desired food, and fellowship, and the laughter of an evening around the fire. I desired warm blankets and comfortable chairs, and music, and maybe a good book, and after such times falling asleep in soft comfort, oblivious to the whirling of the planets high above.
It is in such times you realize that you are being called, that all of us have been called all of our lives, to home. The world is often very beautiful, but it is also wild and dark and dangerous. You may walk safe most times, but there are times when the darkness may take you, and the darkest nightmare is that one day it will take you and you will not escape. But even as we walk, coated and wind-whipped, we are sometimes graced with light that falls through a window in the world. And then we get a glimpse of home, the home that we have been made to belong to. Our father is there, seen dimly through the curtain. He is by the fire telling stories. We know there is a comfortable seat for us, and a good warm drink, and we somehow feel that if we could get inside, we would be forever content to let the stars wheel in darkness above us. There we could shed our coat, and shed every other layer of pretension and protection we have ever worn, and simply be ourselves, or maybe find the self we never knew lying underneath, now basking in the glow of love and light. And we might sing and dance, or tell a story, or hear a story, or simply sit before the blaze in silence and contemplation and contentment. And the heat and glow of that blaze would seep into the deepest parts of ourselves, and we would finally be full— we would finally be satisfied— we would no longer need to walk towards a light through darkness, for we would be in it, and we would at last, eternally contented, be home.
+ Chris Yokel