Writing By Faith

A Christmas Memory


It’s the early 1990s and we’ve gathered for dinner at Grandma’s house. Adults are talking in the kitchen while the teenagers lounge in the back room, debating whether there’s a Walkman amongst the presents under the tree. Somewhere, there’s a record player spinning carols by Andy Williams.

The Gulf War is over, Communism is dead, and the American economy is booming. The future looks bright. Mostly, I’m looking forward to a home-cooked meal after months of bad college food.

My grandfather, a lifelong Republican, said grace and we dug in. I piled my plate with Mom’s green bean casserole, ham, and yams without marshmallows (because that’s a travesty). My uncle, who we suspected was a Democrat, opened the sparkling cider and passed it around.

My parents, who leaned conservative, told us about the Christmas Eve service at church. I, who was slowly moving left thanks to a university education, shared the details of my upcoming band tour.

In short, we dined, we laughed, we told stories, we gave gifts, and then, late that evening, as another Christmas faded into history, we drove home in the warm glow of familial love.

Will we ever experience moments like that again? When the danger of pandemic fades, will we gather with family and friends from across political, religious and social divides? As people grow ever-more segregated over not just political beliefs but the nature of truth itself, will we be able to share happy moments with those who believe, live and vote differently?

At the heart of it, the Christmas story is about Jesus leaving the comfort of home for a foreign land. God became human and made his dwelling here, far away from the trappings of power and glory. His mission of reconciliation was carried out by humbly crossing the great divide between heaven and Earth.

Angels declared his birth to be “good news of great joy for all people.” Not just a select few, not any particular tribe, but all people, everywhere. This is the glory: Everyone is invited to the table.

Mary’s Magnificat — a canticle found in Luke 1, also known as the Song of Mary — describes just what this table looks like. The hungry are fed and the humble are lifted up, while those clinging to riches and power are left outside in the cold. This is further glory: Those who know their need will be filled, while those who, out of fear and desperation cling to false gods of security, are invited to let go of the charade and finally find true peace.

In these dark days, I long for the comfort of a warm holiday dinner with family and friends. I look forward to rich conversations with people from across the full spectrum of life. I pray we can all do our part by staying engaged, listening with humility, repenting the quest for unhealthy power, and yes, even wearing masks so we’re all still here when this is over.

On behalf of the Church on the KP, I wish you a Christmas filled with joy, laughter, love and peace and, if you’re so lucky, a plate of yams, preferably without marshmallows.

Award-winning columnist Dan Whitmarsh is pastor at Lakebay Community Church.