Writing over at The Glorious Table with a special “Christmas commissioning.” Please see the preview below or link to the full post here.
I come from a really big family. With my Mom as one of eight children and my Dad as one of five, every Christmas I knew as a child was filled with more people than I could usually see in one room. Now, years later, we don’t have quite as many people, but between myself and my sisters, there are still seven adults, nine children aged ten and under, and several others who are in and out throughout our days together. Whether Christmas past or Christmas present, each holiday is full, loud, and a little chaotic, but always full of love and lots of people.
I share this because, at some point during the pandemic, there was a time when our larger family couldn’t gather. Granted, this was for Thanksgiving, but the same experience applied. I had never known a major holiday when I would not be with the extended group of people I loved. An hour and a half from my childhood home, for the first time ever, I contemplated what a “small” gathering would look like. Of course, I was grateful for our safe, healthy little group of four, but it was strange to consider what it would look like to manage the meal, make memories, and be without my extended family.
A day or two shy of this particular Thanksgiving, a friend who lived nearby called me. She said she knew I was unable to be with my family, she and her family had talked, and they would love to welcome us to their family’s Thanksgiving if we could come. As she talked, my internal experience was mixed. I was grateful for the invitation, but I was still sad to be missing my own family. Ultimately, I said yes, asked what I could bring to contribute to the meal, and that was that.
On that Thanksgiving Day, my friend’s family included us in everything. This was not just showing up at mealtime and leaving after. Instead, we were invited to arrive at any point, join in the preparation of the food and fellowship, and hang out afterward. In addition to burning the one dish I brought to contribute (good grief), I remember being sad and missing my family but being grateful that someone else asked me to be a part of theirs. I think because I’d never “needed” a family, being invited to share someone else’s gave me perspective and gratitude I’d never had before.
Here is what that experience brings me to. What if, from this point forward, we prayed about what it might look like to have “Christmas plus one?” I realize this would look different for each family (and it doesn’t have to look perfect!), but I think there might be a great blessing both for us and for whomever our “plus one” might be. Maybe it’s a family member, but one who is older and in a nursing home and would love to join us for a few hours. Maybe it’s a neighbor who doesn’t have family in town, or family at all. Maybe our plus one can’t come for the entire experience but would love a warm meal and some memories with folks who want them there. Maybe it’s a coworker who is pulling a holiday shift and can’t travel to their own family but could make it in time to open presents with yours.
Maybe, just maybe, we’ve all got a “plus one” we can invite to be a part of things some way, somehow.
To read the end of this post, link to The Glorious Table here.