“I’ve come to know that our families are a canvas on which we paint our greatest hopes–imperfect and sloppy, for we are all amateurs at life, but if we do not focus too much on our mistakes, a miraculous picture emerges. And we learn that it’s not the beauty of the image that warrants our gratitude–it’s the chance to paint.” from Finding Noel by Richard Evans
I hope you will indulge me in some personal thoughts. I read this little book earlier this month, and it sparked a train of thought through the weeks. The last few years I’ve had a hard time with the traditions of the season versus “the real meaning of Christmas.” Is there maybe a better time, a better, more Scriptural way to honor the Messiah’s coming? Perhaps. Our immediate family celebration of Christmas changes a bit year to year. We haven’t gone the way of the Cranks or Scrooge, but we have toned “Santa” back. I heard a radio program recently about keeping the season focussed on what’s important that helped me phrase some of my thoughts. Richard Evans, in the last two paragraphs of Finding Noel, helped a bit more:
“Just like our story, the original Christmas tales were stories of searching, not so much for the lost, as for the familiar. Mary and Joseph sought in Bethlehem–the home of ther familial ancestry–a place to start their own family; the three kings from the East journeyed beneath that sentinel star to find the King of Kings; and the shepherds sought a child in a place most familiar to them: a manger. “And perhaps after all the songs and poems and stories of the season, Christmas is really no more than that–humanity’s seach for the familiar. Every year we bring out the same songs, partake of the same foods and traditions, and share the things that make us feel that there’s someplace we belong. And in the end all any of us are looking for is home.”
So, looking for a place to belong. Where do we belong? Everyone would have a different answer, some philosophical, some religious, some without much root at all. Our family, right now, belongs in Marion, Michigan on a small farm raising and processing chickens. We belong in a place close to my family, in an occupation that allows us to interact with a broad range of people on several different levels. A friend recently quoted a motivational speaker who said that life is about the people you meet and the books you read. We meet lots of people, have lots of conversations that enrich us and others. This is where we belong right now. We are a large family and right now is when home is a primary responsibility for us. We have the privilage of painting on a large canvas. Celebrating the Christ’s coming at this time of year is tradition, not Scripture, but for me it helps me understand who I am and where I belong in the cosmos. I’m still searching, looking for the right images, the right colors, the right methods (to continue the painting analogy). As my family will not always be living on this farm in Marion, so some of my understandings of who I am, what my place is, and who I AM is may change. But, for this year anyway, we are in a place of family. So I’ve been thinking of ways to celebrate that and to “paint” my children in a secure, safe, and well-bonded image. They have enjoyed making cookies together this year, since Joe can read and follow a recipe himself. They are having a ball making gifts for each other and other family members. The few gifts we invest in will help us invest in the family through shared experiences and activities. I know my brush strokes are poor in this goal, but I’ve been given the privilage of trying. (And I really do plan to go shopping sometime yet this week, having finally made a plan today!) Our farm isn’t a perfect place. We struggle to balance building a business with raising children. But I realized that this is where we belong right now. We have to paint as best we can, no matter how amateurish and abstract the images may look. I’ve finally come to grips with the idea that it’s not so much exactly how or when we celebrate the season or celebrate the Messiah’s coming. It’s that we do it. It’s that in doing it we celebrate our ability to paint and honor where we belong at the moment. We plan to celebrate our family this year as best we can. To celebrate that we are a family and to enjoy each other. I hope the plan works out, but the important thing is to try.
The quote I chose put another spin on the theme of my thoughts. Food is such a big part of our traditions at this time of year. I hope you enjoy the blessings of filling food and fulfilling fellowship in this season of food and gatherings. May your celebrations of the Messiah’s coming help you understand where you belong in this larger painting we call life.