What do people see when they see you during the holidays? Do they get a glimpse of Jesus in a way that helps them feel at home?
“May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
In 1983, my grandmother, a long-time widow, found love again. And when she and her soon-to-be-husband settled on a Christmas Day wedding, my parents decided that we would make the journey from Southern California to Michigan to be there. The wedding was to be held at the home of my Aunt and Uncle and this would be a chance for my mom to spend time with her family whom she dearly missed.
At 7 years old, I wasn’t too thrilled to be stuck in a station wagon for days on end right before Christmas. In her wisdom, my mom allowed me to open my ‘big’ gift from them prior to our departure and I have to admit that clutching my brand new Molly doll from The Pleasant Company (which was soon taken over by American Girl) definitely made me feel a bit less apprehensive about our trek across the country. But, even a brand-new doll can’t help when you run into horrible blizzards and encounter treacherous driving conditions. I will never forget the tense moments as the station wagon inched its way through the storm. Snuggled into the very back (this was before seat belt laws!), I was quite certain that we should have just stayed home.
When we finally pulled up to my Aunt Christine and Uncle Bob’s home I could barely make out the outline of the huge, white historic house against the dark sky. Tired, cold, and hungry, we were just so relieved to be out of the car that we didn’t waste any time hurrying up to the door. We trudged up the front steps just as the door was being opened for us and we were quickly enveloped in hugs and greetings. As we entered the house, the first thing I noticed was the enormous wood staircase and banister. I had never seen anything like it in my life. But, what really caught my eye was that the entire banister was covered in red stockings. There must have been 20 of them!
And to a little 7-year-old girl, away from home on Christmas, the sight of those stockings filled me with the hope that maybe this wouldn’t be so bad after all. My mom and dad disappeared with the other grown-ups and a cousin was given the job of showing us to our rooms. I walked up that giant staircase with a kind of awe and reverence. I had never been in a home quite like this before and I felt as though I had stepped back in time. The long hallway at the top of the stairs revealed more doors than I could have imagined in one house.
And while the hallway was very cold, the warmth that greeted me when I entered my room took the chill off right away. All throughout that evening, my eyes kept wandering over to the banister covered in stockings. Was it possible that one of those was mine? My aunt and uncle had a lot of kids and a lot of extended family plus they hosted foreign exchange students so I figured it was probably a long shot. Out of self-preservation, I determined that it didn’t really matter because it wouldn’t be my stocking. My familiar stocking hung on the fireplace each year and was stuck back in Southern California.
The next day dawned bright and clear and we kids were encouraged to head outside to get some fresh air. Now that I’m a wife and mother myself I realize this had nothing to do with us but everything to do with giving the grown-ups a chance to get things done before the Christmas Day wedding. Later that day, after we had thawed out over hot cocoa, I mustered up the courage to ask my aunt if one of those red stockings hanging from the banister was mine. She took my hand and led me over to them and pointed up at the place where the banister began to turn. “See that one right there? That one is yours!”
Feeling at home
I couldn’t hide my joy and marveled that my sister and I would have a place there among the others. That someone had thought about how much it would mean to two little girls, away from home at Christmas, to have stockings. Uncle Bob and Aunt Christine have always understood that hospitality is simply love in action. It’s the tangible form that love takes as we extend it to others. They have been opening their homes and their hearts to people from all around the world and from all walks of life for as long as I can remember and this Christmas was no exception.
Christmas morning brought with it a fresh snowstorm and concerns about getting my grandmother and her fiancé from their respective homes some distance away. Not to be dissuaded, my uncle and an older cousin braved the roads and delivered the bride and groom safely to the house. Later that morning, I slowly walked down the stairs in front of my grandmother, thrilled to be asked to be a flower girl in a wedding. Everyone in the family had a role. My sister lit the candles, my dad performed the ceremony and my mom and aunt did the decorating and the food. It was to always be known as the most lovely Christmas wedding we had ever attended.
But as wonderful as it was, it’s not the wedding that has stood out to me all of these years. That Christmas of 1983 taught me that home was so much more than a place. I learned that I didn’t have to be in my home to feel at home. And perhaps it was then that the seed was planted in my own heart to want to make others feel at home, no matter where we are. At Christmas, more than any other time of the year, people seem to be longing for a sense of home.
And I believe that each one of us has the ability to create that for others. It doesn’t have to be complicated or over the top. It can be as simple as smiling and making eye contact. Or seeing a need and meeting it. Or inviting a neighbor to church with you. Or adding one more stocking. This Christmas, my prayer is that when I interact with others, they will get a glimpse of a home that is far more glorious than anything constructed here on earth. That they will see in me that it’s only in a relationship with our Savior that we ever feel truly at home.
In His Word
“Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined.” Titus 1:8
“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter 4:9-11
In Your Life
Think of someone in your life (other than your spouse) who has always made you feel at home. Send them a text, email, or handwritten note to let them know what their kindness has meant to you.
What are some tangible ways that you can make someone feel a sense of ‘home’ in these last few days before Christmas? Commit now to making this a goal that you keep long after the holiday season has passed.
Join me as we take a journey through the seasons of the year in my book ‘Life in Season’ with faith-filled stories, encouraging devotions, beautiful photographs, DIY projects, and recipes. Everything you need to slow down, embrace the beauty and the struggle, and celebrate the moments that fill your heart and home. You can find it here.