For most of the first half of Advent 2009 we have not been home for the holidays, not by a long shot. In fact, we have found ourselves in places where people didn’t know or acknowledge the season—such as Muslim Nigerians as the season began or totally non-believing vacationers most recently. Or else, we’ve been in places where folks know the season, but know it only as holiday rather than holy day.
At first it’s just strange to be with people who don’t know/want to just bust out in joyful, seasonal song as you do. Then, after a while, it’s just sad—sad not to be where optimal celebration quite naturally occurs, and sad to be denied the pleasures of traditional familiar and familial forms of celebration.
I actually found myself “unhappy” to be in one of the most beautiful and pleasant places on earth and “eager” to return to another place that could be quite dreadful this time of the year! I found myself wondering what’s wrong with these people. Don’t they know that the best news ever rings true and waits to be celebrated? Why doesn’t someone just jump for joy?
Then I remembered it wasn’t always this way at this time of the year, this way I longing for it to be. Once upon a time, the young lady went into labor and delivered her child—the child, the very one answering age-long, cosmic yearning. And at his delivery most of the world yawned. Except for a few no account shepherds no one on the planet partied.
Later a devoted follower put it this way: He came to his own and his own did not receive him! Indeed, the One instrumental in the creation of all things, even now critical to the well-being of all things, this One somehow, some way turns out to be this Child. This one makes all the difference, yet his coming scarcely catches the attention of anyone.
I remembered that the One whose coming we celebrate had to leave home to start the party. The Life of the Party had to relinquish the personal delight of home to make another home for the delight of others. I realized again that it wasn’t about him, it was about others, about us and all among whom he came to be at home.
And, I realized, that perhaps the real party waits to happen most joyfully “not at home,” but elsewhere, in places where the people don’t know or care—yet! Perhaps the best parties await the passing of the season and the obedience of some who will relinquish the delights of home for the delights of others. Until the day comes when everywhere is home and everybody sings, dances, and parties.