When I look at this picture of the house in Virginia in which I lived longer than any other house, before or since, I think of the following blessing . . .
. . . May your path during this Christmas Season lead you to an open door which swings wide as you step into warmth and light; where a crowd of faces turns toward you, lifts glasses of good drink and calls your name with gleeful loudness; where you can smell the aroma of spiced cider and seasoned meat and the greenery of the garlands and the tree; where you feel the embrace of friends and loved ones, and the soft press of kisses on your cheeks, and yea, even on your lips; where a fire flickers and warms the arches of your socked feet as you sit back and stretch out your legs, your mug cupped in your hands; where squeals of delight follow tears of wrapping paper; where everyone knows that each other’s presence constitutes the true presents. May your path during this Christmas Season lead you to a warm welcome where you can share firm embraces with the ones you love.
Yes, I know . . . that blessing depicts a rather idyllic scene, idyllic for some of us. For my friends from the Southern Hemisphere, Christmas images don’t include scenes of people finding shelter from a harsh winter, rather they think of barbecues on the patio while holding cocktails and wearing Hawaiian shirts and sandals. Indeed, this Christmas of 2015 will be remembered in the eastern third of the USA for its incredibly high temperatures, with numbers in the 70’s for Birmingham and Atlanta, and 60-something in New York City and Washington. Hardly a “Currier and Ives” sort of scene.
And yet, the picture of that house calls to mind something very basic in our humanity: we all long for hospitality in the midst of what Don Henley called “a graceless age.” The world can turn quite “cold” on us, even when the temperatures approximate May more than December. We can feel shut out and ignored by a gray and grouchy society. The ears of our souls ache from the harsh rhetoric of campaigning politicians and we have to reckon with an economic system indifferent to our personal realities. In the face of all that, our hearts long for welcome, warmth, and well being. We long for the embrace of fellowship where eyes look unflinchingly at us and nonetheless confirm the deepest thing in us, where we know we’re noticed, accepted, understood, and loved.
So, I’ll say it again. May your path this Christmas Season lead you to an open door which swings wide . . . on the warmest welcome you’ve ever had.