Hear from Elijah Kinne as he reflects on community & family.
I have 64 cousins, Aunts, and Uncles on my mother’s side. I know…
It’s a large, aggressively loud, Portuguese catholic, immigrant family that moved to the New England area in the USA in the 1920’s. My Nana (mum’s mum), the matriarch of the family in every sense of the word, grew up with little to her name and quickly adopted the thick Rhode Island Twang. (Think New York accent on steroids.) The only time I would ever hear her speaking in her native tongue was when she would swear, therefore picking up what I could from the age of 5, I would describe my own Portuguese as “limited but effective.”
My extended family is all over the globe now and it’s always during this Christmas season that I really miss being part of this loud, opinionated, tribe of people. I have such fond memories of everyone sitting around the table eating copious amounts of food, all talking over each other and no one listening to anything anyone else is saying. My family, for all its eccentricities and annoyances, is mine. All of it. The good, and the bad; the disfunction, and the laughter. And I miss it. I miss, for lack of a better word, that community. And not just the kind of community of being physically together, but the kind where you are deeply known and seen. The kind of togetherness when you know someone so intrinsically that you know what they are going to say, how, and when.
And let me make something clear right now: Family has nothing to do with blood relation. I work in Soho, and let me tell you, the chosen family that people have built into their lives down there is astounding. People from all over the world, from different backgrounds and religions, genders and, of course, sexualities have had to build brick by brick the foundations of a place to call home. I’m amazed at the way the community there looks out for the ‘lost,’ for the people with no one to call their own.
Talking about this always makes me cry tears of happiness. Because the love I see in Jesus and the story of advent is the love I see in the arms stretched out wide in a bar in the middle of London, welcoming a person they have never met before in their life, with an unspoken message that reads: ‘Welcome to the family.’
My own mother is a hospitality goddess, swanning around a kitchen as if it were surgically an extra limb, but all so that she can feed people and love them in her way. It was not uncommon in our house in North Carolina to have over 50 people for holidays, mostly students from the local university that found it too expensive to travel home. The warmth, love and hospitality that my mother would show through a plate of food and a listening ear has more to do with what Jesus valued than any sermon could ever do.
I often find it interesting to think about Jesus’s life on earth. We have a lot written about his childhood, three years of his public ministry, and his death. But for the most part there is nothing about the other 30 years he spent on this planet. It’s so beautiful to me that although his mission was to be fulfilled on the cross, the majority of his life he just simply lived. He lived a life full of humanity. The rising and setting of the sun. Being next to his family. Arguing with and loving those around him. Laughing and enjoying each other’s company.
Yes there was an incredible plan to his presence on earth. But I find so much deep joy and love rooted in the fact that the sacred act of being with his creation, walking among us, as it was in the beginning, was what he wanted more than anything else.
So this Christmastide, I don’t know who needs to hear this, but regardless of who you are, whether you have a 100 relatives or 2, whether you have had to build a chosen family from scratch, or you find Christmas a difficult, lonely time of year. Whether you’re missing someone who is no longer here, or you don’t feel up for a celebration this festive season. I want you to know from the bottom of my heart, whoever you are, whether I’ve ever met you or not, I love you.
And even more extraordinary than that, the God of this universe, whose idea of perfection was walking in a garden next to you, loves you wider and more deeply than the endless sea.
God Bless you this Christmas season and for all time.