Four Christmases is unlike most holiday movies. No display of schmaltzy, warm holiday traditions or magical Christmas eve snowfall. No tender Hallmark moment of familial bonding or even reconciliation of some kind at the end. Sure, it’s a funny movie – my husband and I watch it almost every year – but unlike most of our cinematic Christmas favorites, it completely bucks the long-held belief that despite dysfunctional relationships and fractured nerves, most people still long to go home for the holidays. (Spoiler alert, sorry!) And while I think anyone who has been impacted by divorce in families will find the movie to be both hilarious and sadly relevant, I am willing to bet most of us in similar circumstances would still have ultimately chosen to see our families at Christmas – especially if we had just welcomed our first child into the world.
As I flew across the country this week to experience my own multiple Christmases and familiar traditions, I kept seeing evidence of the persistent longing that we have as humans for returning to our roots. Whether the return home happens only in our minds or in reality, we all crave a connection for where we came from and to those with whom our bonds have nothing to do with career achievements, friend counts on Facebook, or the kind of clothes we can afford to wear.
Over the years, however, the place we call home changes. For the first 30 years of my life, the home I longed for at Christmas more than any other place on earth was my grandmother’s house. But the last one was the last one. And I will never be able to go there again. Since everyone longs to go home for Christmas, then eventually, each one of us has to be the one to sacrifice at some point. For married couples, there's always the discussion of which family home will be chosen for Christmas. And when do we reach the age where our own homes become everyone else’s desired destination?
As you think about this Christmas, your biological family may not look like what you imagined a few years or decades ago. In fact, your family may not be at all what you dreamed of when you were a kid. Through the years, families morph and change, expand and contract. But no matter what your “blood” family is like, I’ve come to believe that your truest sense of “home” comes not necessarily with those whom you share some genetic connections, but with those you share the most unconditional love.
That’s why I like to say that I didn't just get married, I was adopted too. I’ve been married for 13 years, and during that time I’ve spent every Christmas with my husband’s family. At one time in my life I could’ve never imagined spending Christmas anywhere but my grandmother’s and now I can’t imagine spending it anywhere other than with my husband’s family.
My adoption by my husband’s family and my willingness to let God settle my heart into it, is the very picture of what Christmas is all about. This is what Jesus came to earth to do – provide a way for our adoption. Jesus himself was "adopted" by Joseph and Mary. He wasn't their son by natural means, but by divine intervention. He made his home with them. And at the appointed time, he gave his life so that we might also be adopted as God’s sons and daughters.
The nostalgia most of us feel when we think about going home at Christmas, is really about going to a place of acceptance, love and safety, without the pressures of performance and the other burdens of being a responsible adult. For most people, that’s a return to the warmth of our parents, familiar surroundings and comfortable traditions. And that’s because human beings are literally wired to long for the protection and safety of eternal and unconditional love. We long for these feelings because God created us to long for them. Skeptics often ask, “what evidence is there for God?” The universal longing in human hearts for a heavenly home is the greatest evidence of all. We are all longing for divine adoption and the eternal inheritance waiting for us in our true home with God.
This Christmas, when your nostalgic longings begin stirring, perhaps take a moment to ponder why they pull at your heart in the first place. They are beautiful and deeply spiritual reminders welling up from your soul, intentionally placed there by a Father who would give his all to turn your heart toward his. Like the star over the manger in Bethlehem, let the longings of your heart point toward their true home. During the holidays, it is so easy to cover up the longing with mounds of stuff and to-do lists. The more we pile everything up, the louder we make the music, and the brighter we make the lights, the less we see and hear the truth. Instead, take your longing to the throne room of the One who made you in his image and let him satisfy your deepest need. You may approach the throne as an orphan – disheveled, hurt and disowned – but you will leave a daughter or son of the King of Kings.
Random musings, heartfelt confessions, and occasionally inspirational thoughts from a hungry soul in pursuit of the One who set the stars in place yet calls me by name.
Get Glimmers in Your Email Every Week!