By The Reverend Deacon Sheila Plant
By the time you read this, the Christmas season and all it entails will be upon us. The stores will be full of advertisements, decorations, and Christmas music—which probably began sometime in early November! Children will be busy with their Christmas list. As things begin to open up and vaccination passports become the norm, some people will have reservations made for trips to warmer climes or to visit loved ones, and also to “go home for the holidays.”
Home truly is where the heart is. It is where we gather with family and friends. It is where we widen our circle to include those who have no home to go to. It is also where we embrace those whose heart may be broken or empty. No matter what our circumstances, home is not necessarily a place, it is a feeling: a feeling of comfort, safety, security, and most of all love. Sometime ago, I came upon a passage called “Home for Christmas” by Elizabeth Bowen. It seems to speak to the feelings that so many of us have around this time of year. It also brings to mind simpler times and simpler pleasures, things that we sometimes lose sight of in all the hustle and bustle of the season.
The passage reads: “This is meeting time again. Home is the magnet. The winter land roars and hums with the eager speed of return journeys. The dark is noisy and bright with late-night arrivals—doors thrown open, running shadows on snow, open arms, kisses, voices and laughter, laughter at everything and nothing. Inarticulate, giddying and confused are those original minutes of being back again. The very familiarity of everything acts like a shock. Contentment has to be drawn in slowly, steadily, in deep breaths—there is so much of it. We rely on home not to change, and it does not, wherefore we give thanks. Again, Christmas: abiding point of return. Set apart by its mystery, mood and magic, this season seems in a way to stand outside time. All that is dear, that is lasting, renews its hold on us: we are home again…. This glow of Christmas, has it not in it also the gold of a harvest? “They shall return with joy, bringing their sheaves with them.” To the festival, to each other, we bring wealth. More to tell, more to understand, more to share. Each we have garnered in yet another year. No other time grants us, quite, this vision—round the tree, or before the fire, or at table, we perceive anew, with joy one another’s faces. And each time faces come to mean more. Is it not one of the mysteries of life that life should, after all, be so simple? Yes, as simple as Christmas, simple as this. Journeys through a dark night to a lighted door, arms open. Laughter- smothered kisses, smothered laughter. And blessedness in the heart of it all. Dearer than memory, brighter than expectation, is the ever returning now of Christmas. Why else, each time we greet its return, should happiness ring out in us like a peal of bells?”
The last two Christmas seasons have been very different in the life of our Diocese as well as in our own personal lives, so perhaps it is time to put the frenzy of last-minute shopping, the flurry of Christmas card writing, and the frantic dash to squeeze in allowed visits to friends aside for a short period of time and concentrate on what we often take for granted: the gifts that God bestows on us all the time, not just at this time, but all year long. Let us give Him thanks for all his blessings. So, may we all take time during this holy season to give thanks for the simpler times—for that night in the stable when that precious child was born in a simple manger, for friends, family, and all of the simple things that this season brings us. As we journey through the season of Advent and all that it is on our journey to the manger, may we all share in God’s gifts and may we all take those gifts and share with one another. May all your days be blessed and may God cradle you in the palm of his hand.