We often reflect upon how the holiday season is a time for family. Having just come out of a holiday season, we know how powerful family can be in our lives. No matter who they are, family members have the power to profoundly influence our lives.

And family has been defined this week for me. Because I live close to my son and his family, I get to see them on a weekly basis, but I am prone to take family for granted. This week, however, I had the opportunity to visit with my daughter and her family in Hawaii, and while I was there, I stayed at a Disney resort that uses the phrase “Welcome Home” every time you arrive in the building. I was reminded yet again of how profound family can influence our lives … how much we love and care for one another and how we seek the well-being of all in the family. I was reminded just what it meant to be welcomed home.

Family is what compels us to go the extra mile. Family is what compels us to pay for plane trips to places we might only go when we otherwise might have waited until we had enough money or the time was just right. Family is when we are willing to give up our lives to provide for their well-being … to protect them … to make sure their lives are rich and full. And the sense of home that is created by family is profound. Family is largely what defines me.

Family is the term I often use for church. I talk about our church family and the family of faith. The truth is that I have often served in churches where people did not have a sense of family. They were just fellow congregants or fellow parishioners (whatever term they chose to use), but they had little sense that they were dealing with members of their family. I found in at least one church that introducing the idea of family was transformative. The people were able to move from being a loosely associated gathering of believers to a new place where they behaved as family.

And it is a family that is never too large. Years ago, I was told of a family during the Great Depression that always left an empty place at their table for Jesus, and when a stranger was in need of food, they considered the gift of the very presence of Christ to be at their table when the seat was occupied. There is always room at our table for new members of our family, and there is always room at the table of Christ for anyone who seeks a seat.

When we celebrate the gift of Holy Communion, also known as the Lord’s Supper, I pray that we might experience the power of what it means to be a family. I have come to realize that the bible is true (and even the modern field of genetics holds this up): we are all created from common ancestors. We who share this great human race are descendants of common parents.

So I celebrate today our common ancestry. No matter who we are … no matter what we look like … not matter who we love … we are family! We are created by God to share in this family, and I look forward to the day we no longer distinguish between ourselves. I look forward to the day that we greet all of our brothers and sisters with the common greeting, “Welcome Home!”

Thank God for family … for my own family and for the great family of faith!

A Time to Reflect

The end of the year is always the time to reflect. It is a time for endings and a time to beginnings. In 2014, I became part of the “senior generation” in my family. In 2014, I experienced some health issues. In 2014, I fell (more) totally in love with my grandchildren as they grew from infancy into toddlerhood. It has been a year of sadness and joy and despair and hope. It hasn’t been all good, but it certainly hasn’t been all bad. If I learned one thing from 2014, it was that life is a mixed bag … the hand is dealt and my experience is what I make of it.

Above all, it has been a year of experiencing the depth and breadth of what it means to live in grace … trusting God to be God and allowing me to be … well, me. That’s the joy of our faith, isn’t it? It is all about experiencing the goodness of God while experiencing some of the harshest realities of life and death. It is about being real and laughing and crying and grieving and hoping for that new life that we know is always ahead of us!

So as we head into this new year, my hope is that all will experience the joy of following in the footsteps of this one who taught us so much about living only in grace. May you experience the comfort of knowing that God loved us enough to send us someone who lived our lives, shared our hunger, experienced the reality of our living and ultimately gave us a clear path to the God of our creation! May you experience the joy of Christ … born to us this season … as you take your first steps into 2015.

And as you take that step, may you experience it as a gift of …