When we are separated by time and distance from those we love, there is something exhilarating and glorious when we are reunited. With three kids packed in the back of our Buick, my parents began the three-day journey from Castlegar to New Liskeard, Ontario for my mother’s first family reunion.
Although I didn’t completely comprehend all the emotions my mother was experiencing as every mile brought her closer to her family, her excitement became contagious as we drove up the driveway of her parent’s home. As the car door opened, we were met with great jubilation as Grandma, Grandpa, uncles, aunts and cousins came spilling out the house, rushing towards us with open arms, tears of joy and unrestrained laughter. The warmth of that moment penetrated my soul and I understood what it meant to be family — what it meant to come home.
Many years later, my Dad and I made a spontaneous, surprise visit to his family in Belgium. I was beside myself with the thrill of doing something so crazy, so fun, so completely unexpected. We took planes, trains, and automobiles to get from here to there and as we walked the last few blocks of the way to my aunt and uncle’s house under the cover of early evening darkness pulling our suitcases behind us. My heart pounded with indescribable love, joy and anticipation of the incredible reunion that was just around the corner.
My dad rang the doorbell and calling his sister’s name, announced himself as “the potato-seller.” From within the house we could hear his sister loudly exclaiming in stunned recognition and disbelief, “Jacques?!” The pure delight of that homecoming has never left me either.
Family can be the source of our deepest joys as well as some of our most unfathomable sorrows. Those we love most, have the greatest ability to wound us and the depth of our grief is commensurate with the depth of our love. Those who love deeply, grieve deeply.
At Christmas time, it seems that these joys and sorrows are magnified. Christmas is a time of coming together and we feel the sense of loss when that is not possible. When I was young, I had a list of gifts that I hoped would await me underneath the tree, and as I got older, I made lists of gifts to bring happiness to others. But now, my grownup Christmas list is this – simply being together with family.
Christmas is the time we celebrate Our Saviour’s birth, and John 17:20-24 tells us what he most longs for. Moments before he was arrested and taken away to be crucified, Jesus prayed for his disciples to be full of joy, to be protected from the evil one and to be made holy just like him.
And then, he prayed for us, “…I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one — I in them and you in me — so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.”
What Jesus longs for is our heavenly homecoming, a glorious eternal family reunion, the journey to which begins here on earth. The Bible says that there is great rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents. Unlike our earthly reunions that may have been cancelled or constrained by current circumstances, God’s children from every corner of the globe are instantly brought into His loving Presence and family with one simple but life-changing decision to follow Jesus.
It is an exhilarating journey and Jesus wants you to know, the reservations have been made, the ticket has been paid. All you must do is accept it and get on board. Then you too can say, “I’ll be home for Christmas!” God bless you — I’m looking forward to the reunion!
Cynthia Pelletier is the pastor of Kinnaird Church of God