At this Thanksgiving time in America I feel a deep yearning for home and family. At this season of year, the desire runs deep for me and for many people. The essence of the experience is touched, and yet the full knowing of it can be elusive.
For me, the longings that come in this holiday season aren’t easily satisfied by roast turkey and cranberry sauce, and soon candy canes, Christmas trees and presents. I look forward to seeing my grandson, Xavi, and I enjoy the children where I live at Sunrise Ranch. Yet still, there is the deep yearning for home and family that isn’t easily satisfied by these things alone. And I love Christmas carols, but sometimes wonder, How many more times in my life am I going to sing “Jingle Bells”? It feels like I’ve already met my lifetime quota.
I’m not Scrooge and I will be putting up a Christmas tree. Yet the yearning continues.
I offered a blessing for the meal and then asked people at each of the round tables to, in turn, name something for which they felt gratitude. A contented quiet fell over the room as people expressed themselves and listened intently to each other. What other new rituals can we create for the holidays that engage us more deeply in whatever those words “home” and “family” are really about? I am pretty sure I can come up with ways for people to share at greater depth than they usually do.
Have you ever spent Christmas time in a public place? When I was in college I waited on tables over the holidays. And there have been times when I traveled at Christmas time. There was also some anguish during such times at not being with those closest to me. Yet that anguish was mixed with a sense of connection with other people, which transcended the usual family relationships. There was a delight in sharing the festivity of the season with people I had never met. I’ve had the same experience shopping for presents on Christmas Eve. Or window shopping on 5th Avenue in New York City. The happy buzz can be palpable.
This is part of what I long for so deeply during the holidays—an experience of home and family that is bigger than me and mine. An experience of the family of man, and of being at home together on this most beautiful planet (the most beautiful planet I’ve ever seen). I long to know a connection with other people that isn’t only because we have known each other a long time, because our skin is the same color or we worship at the same church. I long for the commonality that I share with all human beings, even though it often doesn’t come to the surface. And I long to share that transcendent commonality with the people closest to me.
As I see it, that is what the Christmas story is all about. In the story, Jesus lived that commonality. He wasn’t just a leader for his own people, the Jews. He connected with anyone who would share that commonality with him. The wise men came from the East, as the carol says, from the Orient. The story doesn’t mention whether the shepherds were Jews or not. Jesus met with Romans and he served people who were shunned by his culture.
As the story goes, he was a living embodiment of what makes a family and what let’s us know home. Simply put, it is love. Maybe Love with a capital “L.” Or put whatever word you want in front of it to show that you are not just talking about infatuation or the possessive kind of love of me and mine—Universal Love, Evolutionary Love, Unconditional Love, Agape Love.
This is the truth I am longing to know fully and share with others. So I commit myself to that in this holiday season. I commit myself to invite that knowing and sharing from others too. How about you?