The Gift of…(Part 1)
Amidst the gaiety of the Christmas season with all of its lights, candy canes, well-wishes, online deals, cheesy romantic movies, and syrupy-sweet classic holiday tunes on endless rotation, the song “Please, Come Home for Christmas” always seems to strike a melancholy chord. Juxtaposed with whimsical classics like “Sleigh Ride” and cheerful melodies that invoke the nostalgia of claymation television broadcasts like “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “Please, Come Home for Christmas” forces us to reflect on the possibility (or reality) of a Christmas season without the presence of those we cherish the most.
Written by Charles Brown in 1960, this blues-style composition invites its listeners to a space where one longs for the presence of his beloved. The sights and sounds of the season, even holiday greetings from “friends and relations” that may have normally elicited cheer, are not enough to ameliorate the sadness he’s experiencing while his dear one is away.
2020 has been the year that none of us could have imagined, planned for, and certainly wouldn’t have hoped for. We ended 2019 with aspirations and an unrelenting hope of all that a new decade would bring, only to be met head-on with one devastating scenario after the next. It seemed every news broadcast or social media post continued to perpetually ring out “the sad, sad news” heralding the message of racism, injustice, death, disease, loss, mourning, and despair. The cries of the broken, the marginalized, and the oppressed reverberating across the corridors of time and distance as we watched in real-time acts of senseless violence that gripped our hearts and pained our souls.
This year forced us to pause when our lives had only known busyness. Friends, family members, co-workers, and acquaintances who were once so easily reachable are no longer a sit-down meeting away. Weddings, baby showers, graduations, date nights, religious gatherings all paused, and our access to one another required a connection to the fastest internet service and an electronic device with front-facing camera capabilities. Hugs and handshakes, once freely given, were soon replaced by pantomimed air embraces with a six-foot distance between us. This “social distance” served as a reminder of the severity of the silent assassin that had impacted the entire globe.
We approach the end of this year with so many things behind us that have changed not only our daily interactions but have also invited a somber introspection into how we think about life. This Christmas season is unlike any other that we have faced. Many of us have experienced the loss of loved ones due to distance, isolation, sickness, death, political views, or because the time came to let the relationship go. There are challenges that we may yet face as we struggle to find joy in the midst of despair. The future that lies ahead contains days, weeks, and months of uncertainty. We are (justifiably) apprehensive, cynical, and trepidatious.
While we hold space for moments to reflect and celebrate, to mourn and to rejoice, to move forward, or to be still, may we also offer the greatest gift to ourselves and others during this season: the gift of grace. The gift of grace allows us to be human and to hold on to hope that in time, “there’ll be no more sorrow, no grief and pain, ‘cause I’ll be happy Christmas once again.”
(All quoted lyrics from “Please Come Home for Christmas”, written by Charles Brown 1960)
Here is the new reality. I am a 72-year-old white woman in Tennessee. I had never heard of you. But I was live messaging with a Black female friend in South Africa who knows my heart and she told me how to find you.
Ironically, considering your song choice, my son is a professional jazz pianist who can really rock the blues.
I have quietly watched as my strong, intelligent, Black Christian sisters have done the hard work to set the stage for change in our country. I know that you don’t need my affirmation and I don’t need yours. But may I be a fellow traveler with you? It is breaking my heart to hear my white “ Christian “ friends excuse politicians who are blatantly racist and cruel.