He came for all in the family

The mere flicker of a candle may be our brightest light this holiday season. In the midst of the shortest days and the longest nights comes the light to light up the life of man.
I heard a woman say, “This will be a ridiculous Christmas, half of our crazy family are druggies and the other half are religious fanatics. We are renting a house in Arizona for a week so that the family can unite and be together.”
Between the Bible-thumpers and those getting high, there are sure to be a lot of sparks if not bonfires ignited. But, “Judge not, lest you be judged” (Matthew 7:1). Every family has a crazy aunt or a weird second cousin. We are no exception.
Al’s family always bemoaned Uncle Earl coming for the holidays. He drank himself into a drunken stupor, and Al’s mother and aunt griped the whole time. As a young bride, new to the family, I questioned, “Why do you invite him? You say he always ruins your holiday. Why would you put up with him?”
“He’s family, it’s the holidays and we don’t want him to be alone.”
Really? I don’t think it is any secret that holidays and family are often akin to oil and water. Yet each and every year, family members excitedly plan their two-week vacation time — with family.
I was taken aback recently during my weekly prayer group video conference. The son of one of the attendees had popped in to the room to say “hello.” He had just driven six hours to return home on his college break. The first words from his mother’s mouth were, “You need a haircut.” He immediately disappeared to his room and we didn’t see him the rest of the night.
When I heard his mother say that, I chuckled and asked myself, “Why would she say that?” But, then I realized that I have said similar things to our children and grandchildren. They stop by to see us and I will comment on their hair or their latest tattoo.
“We’ve got to do something with your hair. You say your new color is peanut butter and jelly? What possessed you to do that? That brown and purple looks awful.”
When one of my grandsons stopped by to visit, I said, “You got another tattoo? That looks terrible.”
Although I’m not proud to admit it, I’ve said many things in judgment at one time or another. And yet, our children and grandchildren still stop by to see us. Why do we say what we say when they just want to touch home for the holidays?
I’m sure family members brace themselves knowing what they are going to face coming home. For college kids, the dorms are closed and they need a place to land before the next semester. They’re homesick or just want a home-cooked meal or want to see friends.
Years ago, I remember hearing an interview with Lionel Richie. He said that he kept his old college apartment long after his college days and even after he became famous. With the chaos and demands of his career, he needed a place where he could come and be reminded of who he was before fame. It was an honest place; it was home.
What is home during the holidays? A time and place where mothers cook up their favorite recipes. Maybe an aunt or brother will come by and insist on setting up a new puzzle in the middle of the living room. It is also a time to learn of what’s important to a next generation; to see their new purple hair or their latest tattoo.
The reality of the holiday season is that it is about a light that came into the world to give life to man. As for ourselves, we cast shadows on this joyous time and on each other with our judgment.
Final brushstroke: I don’t think it was by lack of design that Jesus would come into the world on the shortest and darkest days of the year. It is probably not too out of reach to think that he would come at a time when we would be focused on anything but Him. Thankfully, the Light of Jesus shines through and beyond all that otherwise has our attention.
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This story was posted on December 24, 2018.