Today's Scripture Reading
How Shall We Sing the Lord's Song?
137:1 By the waters of Babylon,
there we sat down and wept,
when we remembered Zion.
2 On the willows there
we hung up our lyres.
3 For there our captors
required of us songs,
and our tormentors, mirth, saying,
“Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
4 How shall we sing the Lord's song
in a foreign land?
After finding myself 1000 miles away from home again this Christmas, I’ve been thinking about all the times I really thought Christmas was going to pass me by. Growing up, the holiday always had a very predictable pattern. All four of my grandparents lived within two blocks of our house. One great-aunt always came in by train, and later by plane, just before Christmas Day. We went to Christmas services, rose early on Christmas morning, waited until all grandparents arrived to open presents, ate Christmas dinner at either our house, my grandmother’s house, or my great-aunt’s house, depending on whose turn it was to host. I seem to remember one strange Christmas when we drove two hours to another great-aunt’s house for dinner, and a phone call was made to a cousin stationed far away in Germany, but this was not the proper pattern.
After I married and we lived away from my home, Christmases became less predictable, shared between my parents and my husband’s parents. I still remember the first Christmas together as husband and wife, both full-time students; I was sure there was no money for the trimmings, but somehow we found $20 and stretched to buy a small tree, ornaments, and some tinsel. I hung many of those same ornaments on our tree this year. Being married to a minister, there were to be many times we could not make it back to the homes where we grew up. For two years we lived in Belgium, and there was no thought of being with family. One year we took an overnight train to Berlin to be with seminary friends; the first thing we saw in the morning and the last thing we saw at night was the Berlin wall. It is one of the darkest Christmases I can remember, in no small part because the days are so short at that latitude. The language and customs were strange, but somehow Christmas found us there, and the next year, too, at Coventry Cathedral and at a dinner we helped serve to pensioners who had no family.
The years went on; our daughter was born. We sometimes hosted the dinner for extended families. After some Christmas Eve services, we returned to our home, then drove on to our parents on Christmas Day. For twenty years, my husband served as an interim minister to churches in other towns and cities. There were many long drives through the night after the 11 o’clock service, returning to our home or the homes of our parents. Our daughter, and sometimes my mother-in-law, slept in the back seat as we sped across deserted highways at two in the morning. Several years ago, my mother choked and fell into a coma. My brother, husband, and sister-in-law, along with some close friends, sat by her bedside for 10 days until she slipped away one morning; we buried her only a couple of days before Christmas. There was not much decorating that year, but the routine of the Christmas Eve service provided the beginning of healing.
Now, as our daughter is grown and married, we are finding ourselves driving two days to be with her and her husband to celebrate Christmas. We’re discovering the joy of a new extended family, even as we remember Christmases past and mourn all those who are no longer present with us.
This year, as I handled the precious ornaments gathered from many places and times, I pondered what Christmas had meant over the years. I remembered that Mary and Joseph knew what it was like to be far from home at a special, difficult time. God found a way then, and He has always found a way for us to find the meaning of Christmas, no matter where our rambling lives have taken us.
Thank You, Lord, for Your persistence in seeking us out to give us Your gift, no matter how far away from home we go.
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