Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years are nearly upon us and I am remembering what a difficult time the holidays can be. As much press as the turkey, the gifts, and the alcohol get on these special days, I think most of us would be content with one thing–a loving family. It doesn't seem like much to ask, does it? Yet so many of us face separation from those we love at the holidays by death, divorce, or distance. Even more of us know that while we will be with our family members this year, we will endure the pain of disassociation. In other words, our presence at the family gathering won't be celebrated by some of our family members.
There are so many ways people can choose not to celebrate us this year–by drinking too much, smiling too little, criticizing, leaving early, not contributing, not talking, or just not showing up. As much as some of us try to place the blame for this rejection squarely with the one behaving badly, it's all too easy for us to wonder, 'What's wrong with me?'
I read John 1:11 recently and was struck by the realization that Jesus knows the pain of not being celebrated by His family: He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Many times I have heard the cries of the broken heart begin with "my own." How could my own husband, my own mother, my own father, my own brother, my own in-laws treat me this way? And family members are hard to exchange, aren't they? Once we've been rejected once, we may find little hope for a loving family celebration in the future.
But there is hope for our holidays this year. We can find hope in knowing that Jesus is acquainted with our sorrow. He knows how it feels to be rejected, not only as a human being on earth, but as God Himself. As a culture, we continue to reject Him by trying to remove Him and His name from our holiday celebrations, yet He does not reject us. Because God knows our pain from personal experience, He can comfort us like so many others cannot.
Comfort is good, but sometimes the only thing that will satisfy our aching heart is to be with a loving family. No matter who or where you are and no matter who you're related to, I have good news. This year, you can spend the holidays with those who cherish you. You have a Father and a Brother who long to spend time with you. Will you come away from the busyness of the season to visit with your heavenly Father and Christ, your brother? I hope you will. If you do, rather than lament how your earthly family hasn't received you, you will be ready to celebrate the richness of what your own God has given you. After all, that's what holy days are all about.