This time of year always makes me think of my family. Mine is big. loud. crazy. At most moments, slightly inappropriate. We are in each other’s business. We fight loud, and love louder. And we are weird. So weird. But we are family.
I am excited to spend this upcoming Christmas with the entirety of my mom’s side of the family for the first time since the year we lost her. We will be together, and even though this part of my family now lives in Nashville, where I must travel to see them, I will feel “home” despite being far from where I reside.
For several years after my mom passed, I spent the holidays in a myriad of ways as I lived overseas in Indonesia. Though I was able to return home for one Christmas, I spent three Thanksgivings and two Christmases separated from my people by the giant Pacific Ocean and a few more seas.
Our holidays always looked a little different. One Christmas stands out to me in particular as something special. Living in a nation where the majority of the population did not celebrate Christian holidays, we celebrated both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day at our church, even mid-week. People of all languages gathered at our international church to sing and celebrate our hope found in Jesus.
Most of our close friends in the country were away traveling or visiting their families, so my husband and I decided to host Christmas for those left by themselves. Our table filled with faces I’ll always remember as “family”: a Canadian/Indonesian couple, my Chinese-Indonesian friend who is a Christian, but whose family is Buddhist, and two Iranian refugees. It’s funny. I don’t remember what we ate. Some of us could barely communicate. But we were together. That day stands in my memory as a sweet reminder of the way God makes family.
The Scriptures are full of God’s family design. There’s a lot of adopting and family-tree-grafting that happens, and the Old and New Testaments tell story after story of the foreigner playing a role in Jesus’ own lineage. People who were once on the outside get to be a part of it all by possessing even the smallest amount of faith. We all get to sit at the same table, with the same first-born inheritance, no sibling ranking necessary, as there’s enough love to go around.
Jesus sure knows how to define family. His example challenges me to constantly re-define my own understanding. His heart for me inspires me to open my eyes to others and then open my door as well.
Sometimes I have my doubts and concerns. Each person (myself included) brings quirks and misunderstandings, not to mention the real-life baggage people carry around with them. Like so many family holiday gatherings, awkwardness at best, and tense disagreements at worst, are bound to arise.
When I’m hesitant, I think of the Father of all. He sent Jesus to earth. Jesus dined with tax collectors and prostitutes and called twelve motley men his tribe. Surely I can follow suit and make more room in my “family.” There’s no better time than the holidays, when so many can feel so alone.
The time of year always make me think of my family. Mine is big. loud. crazy. We are from all nations and tongues. Some of us have permanent homes, and some are wanderers. Some are Republican, some vote Democrat, and many are in between. Some speak English clearly, and sometimes we communicate with each other through gestures and a whole lot of laughter. We have too many differences and hurts to count, but we all share the need to love and belong. We are one in Christ. We are family.
Friends, I encourage you to open your eyes to people who might be in need of this big, loud, and crazy family. Invite them into Christ’s family, just as you were invited in. Love has a way of multiplying.