Home for Christmas

My column for The Elgin Review 12.4.19

“I’ll be home for Christmas, you can count on me, please have snow and mistletoe and presents on the tree…” Bing Crosby’s famous song has woven its way like a ribbon around a wreath through our thoughts about Christmas. In the dark of mid-winter, we make our homes cozy with twinkling lights and evergreen branches and anticipate a Hallmark movie kind of happiness to fall like snow upon us. A blanket of white against the chill of what’s real sometimes.

Once, when my boys were little, I left them playing nicely in the family room while I ran upstairs to get something. I had gotten no further than the top of the stairs when I heard a commotion below, wailing and yelling so loud I thought the house was on fire (or something similarly dire). What I found after my mad dash down the stairs was eighteen-month-old Daniel with a death grip on two fists-full of three-year-old Adam’s hair. Dan was holding Adam hostage and banging him against the front of the sofa. “Pow, Pow, Pow, Pow, Pow.” Both boys were hollering and bellering.  It was an epic battle over a toy.

I pried open Daniel’s hands and scooped him under one arm, and scooped Adam under my other arm and carried them into the dining room where I plopped them, one and then the other, onto chairs on opposite sides of the room. When they quieted, I said, “Boys. In our family we do not hurt each other. In our family we love and protect each other.” Yeah. Right! Who was I kidding? I had just seen first-hand evidence that what I was saying was untrue. In our family the little brother took his older brother by death grips on his hair and walloped him!

Except, it was true, too. In our family we love and protect each other. In our family we were raising little boys to be the kind of men who care about and for each other inside our home, and about and for their neighbors everywhere. Time on the chairs in the dining room was a time for recalibrating relationships and remembering who we are.

Advent, the four weeks leading up to Christmas isn’t about appearances and creating lovely memories of a snow-covered, idyllic season at home. Advent, this season we are in right now, is a time to recalibrate our relationships with each other. It is a time to remember who we are, and whose we are. In the Bible, the prophet Isaiah talks about beating swords into plowshares. Advent is a season for making peace and for making right what has been wrong. It is a time to let go of the death grips we have on old resentments and bygone battles. It is time to make our hearts ready so that our homes and our lives will be places where it is clear that God lives with us here.

At Park Congregational United Church of Christ, ten miles west of Elgin on HWY 70 and ½ mile south, you are welcome to be part of a faith home where we gather every Sunday for worship at 9:15 am. Worship is when we sit a while together to recalibrate our relationships and to remember who and whose we are. All of us are welcome home with God not just for the holidays, but every day.

I love to hear from you. My email is beckyzmcneil@gmail.com

2 thoughts on “Home for Christmas

  1. I can’t picture your three lovable boys ever fighting!!! I sure miss seeing them. Merry Christmas to you and Mike and your family!

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