Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
forever. –Psalm 23:6
Before my dad lost his battle with lung cancer, he helped me memorize Psalm 23. The year I graduated from high school, he died. In December.
And in another December, thirty years and twenty days later, my mother passed. Three days before Christmas.
The pain of these and other losses could suck the living joy out of Christmas. Instead it’s helping me define Christmas. I see now that Christmas means the fulfillment of Psalm 23. Because of Jesus, I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Some day, I’ll be home!
I’ll live in my true, forever home with the people I’ve loved the most.
Meanwhile, I’m stuck in a love-hate relationship with grief. This longing is unquenchable, but not unredeemable. The ache in my heart keeps my loved ones present , and the feeling grows more intense with each passing year. So I get to dwell with them in the here and now, even as I anticipate my future homecoming when my deepest longings are fulfilled.
Maybe this is why the theme of so many Christmas movies and songs is Homecoming. We yearn for times past and loved ones lost, so at Christmastime we seek out the closest replica.
If we could write the happiest ending to our own life stories, wouldn’t most of us choose a reunion? In fact, the entire Bible narrative points to a homecoming–a loving reunion set in motion on that very first Christmas. Our greatest longings “met in thee tonight.”
At times this season, I taste again the bittersweet mingling of hope and disappointment and look forward to a good, cleansing Christmas cry. In the old, familiar Christmas songs playing everywhere, I hear nuances I never noticed before.
Christmas Eve will find me
Where the love light beams
I’ll be home for Christmas
If only in my dreams
My favorite aunt is there in my dreams. On a Christmas morning when I was young, I unwrapped my first journal. Auntie Midgie had written on the inside flap, “Fill it up . . . your thoughts, poems etc.” I miss her deeply and can’t wait to be reunited some day. But she’d be happy to know I’ve written a new poem.
like an ancient, bearded
robed in white
drawing my gaze
to a manger.
Then points to a house
on a faraway hill
with a curl of smoke
a spreading oak,
faces I know
and a path that leads me