Our house is going to be busy tomorrow, nine people bustling around talking, cooking, unwrapping presents, acting as crowd control… Christmas can really fill a home.
It can also accentuate loss. Christmas can often be a reminder of absence, a space where someone would have once been. For all that the next few days are meant to be about joy and music and celebration, some won’t be able to enter in to those festivities. Sadly that’s sometimes avoidable.
There’s an interview with Nadia Bolz Webber in which she talks about how her church, which was pitched at more ‘alternative’ communities, started being visited by a more mainstream crowd. Suddenly there was a sense of mission creep – tattoos and piercings on one hand, shirts and ties on the other – until a young women spoke out:
“I’m glad there are people here who look like my parents. Because they love me when my real mom and dad can’t.”
It’s a statement that’s heart-breaking and prophetic at the same time, a statement that should make each one of us look at what our church is and what it could be. Psalm 68 sings of the Lord setting the lonely in families; often, I think, those families are the church, empowered and blessed and guided by the Immanuel God.
“God with us”. We hear that a lot this time of year, and it’s true, but when we’re called to be family to the lonely, things can get tough and messy, because we’re called to love people who’ve been hurt and ostracised and abused. No-one said being family was easy. Sometimes it even means putting aside our own prejudices and politics and past, because it’s an act of grace that transforms all those involved. It’s not a one-way street.
It’s getting close to the moment when we remember God himself becoming part of an ordinary human family and, in doing so, we remember the lonely, remember we’re brothers and sisters, and remember that our dysfunction can be overcome by grace.