This is not a sermon but rather a real blog post! Who knew!!
As a single person, my best bet for spending time with other people during the holidays is with my parents, and since I’m an only child, that makes it all the more important that I be home for Christmas. As a pastor, though, I have responsibilities on Christmas Eve, so over the last several years I have grown accustomed to traveling on Christmas Day. My first Christmas as a pastor, Christmas Day was also a Sunday, and I ended up spending Christmas night 2005 in a hotel near the Cincinnati airport by myself – an experience I do not care to repeat. This year, the crazy weather up and down the East Coast threw a small wrench into my travel plans, but for once I was grateful for the travel difficulties. Along the way, I experienced two new ways of being home for Christmas.
First, on a quick flight from JFK to Washington, DC, I found myself sharing a row at the back of the plane, directly next to the engine and across from the lavatory, with a flight attendant commuting home after her shift had ended. She had just returned from a round-trip to Senegal, one of several west African routes that she works regularly. I mentioned very briefly my travel troubles around Christmas, and she certainly understood my experiences – she herself had been working as a flight attendant on international routes since 1971 and had spent many Christmases away from home. We shared many wonderful stories about travel strangeness like this, but her stories were incredible moments of finding some sort of “home for Christmas.” She recounted two experiences of being welcomed into homes in Italy and Austria – places where Christmas celebrations are often limited to immediate family, with even significant others of family members asked not to attend – where she was welcomed as one of the family. Even as a guest who looked very different and came from an entirely different culture, she received gifts from others in the family and was at one of the gatherings even seated at the place of honor next to the host! Her stories were incredible, and I will never forget the time we shared on that brief flight, fellow travelers from very different places and backgrounds who nonetheless found a little bit of home for Christmas together.
If that weren’t enough of a home for Christmas, I then had the privilege of sharing a couple hours with a Twitter friend and colleague in ministry, Leslianne Braunstein. Although we had conversed a bit on Twitter and discovered some mutual friends and experiences, we had never met in person until Christmas Day. My new itinerary called for a four-and-a-half-hour layover in Washington, and Leslianne graciously volunteered to spend some of it with me. So we sat in a virtually-empty restaurant at Reagan Airport and shared appetizers and incredible conversation for nearly two hours. Though we too came from different places even amidst our shared experiences, in that time together we found another glimpse of home for Christmas.
I eventually made it home with far less travel drama than I had anticipated – and I walked away with two wonderful stories. But even more, over the twelve days of Christmas this year, I have carried these moments with me as reminders that the home we find for Christmas may come when we least expect it, around people with very different experiences, in the midst of frustration and anxiety and uncertainty. Though I was very glad to make it home for Christmas this year, I was even more grateful to see some other visions of home along the way and to share them with wonderful people each and every step of the way.
As this Christmas season comes to an end, I hope that you found some glimpse of this kind of home somewhere along the way too. Thanks for letting me share my story of going home for Christmas.