It’s an amazing time of year. Despite the well-documented secularization of North American society, December 25 continues to be the most venerated holiday on the yearly calendar. In the name of this special season, countless trips are taken, roads traveled, and flights flown so that families can be reunited.
It’s hard to fully explain the joy and peace one experiences while sitting with family and relatives around the Christmas dinner table. Carefully prepared food is savoured by the morsel and consumed in extravagant proportions. Relatives normally separated by geography eagerly share updates on work and family. Memories of Christmases past are conjured and rehearsed. Stories are shared and jokes are told to much merriment and easy laughter. Little ones at the table revel in innocent enjoyment and insert their own giggles when appropriate – mostly oblivious to the particulars of adult conversation, but keenly comfortable in these joyful moments and fully aware of the warm company of loved ones.
It’s in the magic of these hours that the mildest of tensions between family members subside and disappear altogether. Fears and disappointments are forgotten. Anxieties are left at the door. All those seated at the table are drawn into an experience that seems to transcend time and circumstances of life. All who join in here are fully and unconditionally embraced by the code of The Family, and the joy and peace of Christmas flows with intoxicating abandon.
This precious picture of family unity should remind us of the unity that Christ calls his church to. In John 17, Jesus prays these words: “The glory that you [God the Father] have given me I have given to them [believers], that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” (John 17:22-23, ESV)
Day in and day out, our fellowship should resemble the unconditional warmth and generosity that we experience at our family’s Christmas dinner table. As the local church, our unity is to be so strong, our love so unconditional, our devotion so evident, that onlookers will be utterly convinced of the love of the Father. As at the table, Family gatherings should be occasions of joy, peace, security, and affection.
It’s a tall order and a weighty responsibility. It goes beyond the natural state to embrace, love, and trust spiritual siblings with the same intimacy that bonds blood relatives. But with each self-sacrificial embrace of our brother and sister in Christ, we take a step closer to the heart of God.
“… that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know …”