Thursday morning, over breakfast, my wife said, “Happy Anniversary!” I thought, “Oh my! Did I forget our anniversary!?” And then it clicked. Seven years ago on December 22nd we received the keys to our home. I had been appointed here to El Centro United Methodist Church in 2009, and our appointment year begins on July 1st. It was 117 degrees the day we arrived.
We were hoping to buy a home here, and it took six months, but we finally had a place we could call home. For those six months we lived, first in a couple’s home who traveled during the hot summer months. We had never met them and they had never met us. They weren’t from our new congregation. In fact, they were Jewish. But they knew members of our church and wanted to help out. Mark and Frankie have become good friends since.
But they were coming home after three months, and we still hadn’t found a home. So, we moved to a mobile home owned by a couple from the church that had recently moved to Werner Springs. Finally the day came when we closed escrow and were able to move into our new home, our beautiful home.
We got the keys, and brought pillows and blankets, a bottle of champagne, a coffee pot and a change of clothes, ready for the big move-in day, December 23rd. We slept on the floor that night. In our new home.
The next morning it seemed the entire congregation came out to help us move in, and in less than three hours they had moved our possessions from storage into the house. It was quite amazing. I still don’t know where some things are.
But we were home.
That afternoon I went looking for a Christmas Tree. Who knew there would be no trees available that late in December? Saddened, I thought this will be the first Christmas where we don’t have a tree. But we were home and that was what mattered the most.
We were invited by neighbors to a block party that night. What a wonderful way to meet our neighbors. We walked down to the house where the party was held and there were luminaries up and down the block. It was beautiful. One of our church members lived down the street from us, and they introduced us to the others. I think someone asked if we were settled in, and I think I said something about getting there, but not having any luck finding a Christmas Tree.
The next morning, Christmas Eve, there was a large box on our front porch. I opened it up and there it was. A Christmas Tree. Not a fresh cut tree like I always got before. But a tree nevertheless. I brought it in and started to put it together, finishing up on Christmas morning.
It was a beautiful tree.
I’ll never forget our first Christmas in El Centro. It was, and continues to be a place we call home. Home is the longing of every human heart, a longing for place, for meaning, to know we are loved and cared for.
Christmas is about home. God chose to make a home among all of humanity. God chose to offer us a place, to give us meaning, to love and care for us. I know it doesn’t always feel that way. All we have to do is look at the world and shake our heads. But just as God chose us, we can choose God. We can make a home for Christmas, not just for a day, but for always.
A home where hope and peace and joy and love lives. Despite all the facts.
Merry Christmas. May God bless us everyone!