When there's no family at Christmas

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

At Christmastime people make great sacrifices to be with their loved ones, and movie studios often release films that feature the return of a long-lost member of the family. These movies sometimes become instant classics.

But life isn't always like the movies. In an article titled, "Christmas, 1900," the founder of this newspaper, Mary Baker Eddy, wrote compassionately: "Parents call home their loved ones, the Yule-fires burn, the festive boards are spread, the gifts glow in the dark green branches of the Christmas-tree. But alas for the broken household band! God give to them more of His dear love that heals the wounded heart" ("The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany," pages 256-257).

For several years my wife and I felt that we lived in one of those broken household bands. Shortly after graduating from high school, our daughter ran away. In spite of several entreaties on our part to return, it seemed that she wanted nothing to do with us.

Our son blamed us for the rift and became more and more distant as he passed through his college years, finally deciding he would rather spend Christmas with his friends than be with us. We were devastated.

About this time, I found Mrs. Eddy's remarks quoted above. We loved the blessing that God would give us "more of His dear love." Of course, we had to recognize that love and accept it, instead of hanging on to letdown, self- justification, and resentment.

After a few Christmases without our daughter, we had our first Christmas without either of our children - and without even a call or a card. We decided that we would look to God for our joy. We would try to rejoice in His goodness and love. We would also stop holding negative thoughts toward our children, to whom we had continued sending Christmas gifts in spite of their requests to stop.

It wasn't easy. We went out of town for Christmas weekend and visited a city where we'd never been before. We attended a church service, but we spent most of our time quietly in the hotel, praying. Our prayer was to understand divine Love more, the Love that "heals the wounded heart." While it wasn't a festive weekend, it was almost a holy one. I can say that we felt closer to God than we had in a long time, and we began to see that, as Mrs. Eddy wrote in her major work, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures": "Man is the family name for all ideas, - the sons and daughters of God" (page 515).

We realized that we were members of God's family, which included all the sons and daughters of God, and in that spiritual association there could be no rifts, misunderstandings, resentments, or annoyances.

We returned home, feeling spiritually refreshed. We tried to keep that holy Christmas sense alive in our hearts and spent several hours a day reading the Bible and praying. On New Year's Day, the phone rang. Our daughter, in a small voice, hesitantly thanked us for our Christmas gift. That was the beginning of the establishment of a relationship with her that was both different and better than it had ever been.

It led to our visiting her, her announcement of her engagement, and, the next Christmas, my walking her down the aisle to be married to a fine young man who had loved her since he was 10 years old!

Our son took a little longer to come back, but he did. After a year or so, he drove 18 hours each way to see us, bringing his lovely wife, two rambunctious puppies, and the news that we would be grandparents.

For several years, well-meaning people would pat us on the back and say, "Oh, they'll come around," and, frankly, it was hard to swallow. My wife and I don't think they "came around" just because of the passage of time. While maturity (theirs and ours) probably had something to do with it, we believe it was primarily our welcoming of God's love into our hearts, and the expansion of our definition of "family" to include universal humanity, that healed the breach.

For those who may be in similar circumstances, do take heart. God's love is ready to heal, and that is the best gift of all, whatever the season.

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