Ever Grateful for Home

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Father David BonnarEvery Advent season brings with it a special anticipation for the coming of Christ at Christmas. This anticipation always seems to engender all kinds of hopes, dreams and expectations. Many of those sentiments fill our greeting cards at this time. Among the many longings are things like peace, joy and love. No doubt, this year the whole idea of health is foremost on people’s minds, along with an end to the pandemic.

The observance of Advent also evokes great nostalgia. During these days, we cannot help but look back at Advents and Christmases past. These few days before Christmas are usually some of the busiest travel days of the year as many people “go home” for Christmas. Many of us may find ourselves traveling deep into our memories recalling times past.

In that spirit of nostalgia, I am reminded of a Christmastime that happened many years ago. I was in my fourth and final year of priestly formation living at the North American College in Rome. I had spent the previous three Christmases away from home.

During that time, my mom was recovering from lung cancer surgery. Doctors removed part of one of her lungs, and miraculously, she required no further treatment. Due to her illness, I asked permission to come home for Christmas. Permission was granted.

A few days before Christmas, I quietly returned home. Only my parents and one sister knew that I was coming. The evening I arrived home, my siblings were invited over to the house. I was hiding in another part of the home. During their gathering, I walked into the room as if I had never left. It was a special surprise and one I will never forget. That Christmas I could say for the first time in three years that I was home for Christmas. It felt so good. Indeed, there is no place like home.

I thought of that experience because this year, even though I live only 26 miles from home, it does not appear that I will be home for Christmas. The ongoing pandemic that continues to surge all across our country means that many of us will not be home for Christmas. To slow down the spread, authorities are strongly encouraging families to keep socially distant and not gather customarily. Amid these restrictions, Christmas will still occur. The Christ Child will soon be among us.

Although we cannot sing “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” this year, we can still behold the miracle of the Word becoming flesh. Nostalgically, we can go back in time to those many celebrations of Christmas in which we were home and be ever grateful. There is no place like home, for sure!

At the same time, we can dream of a time, sooner rather than later, when we can all be together again and “at home” for Christmas. Until then, let us prepare to behold the coming of Emmanuel, “God is with us,” who reveals to us again and again that our true home is with him at the crib.

In these days before Christ’s coming, take time to remember the past, behold the present and anticipate the future all the while being grateful for “home.”

BISHOP-ELECT DAVID J. BONNAR, editor of The Priest, has been appointed bishop of the Diocese of Youngstown. Follow and like The Priest magazine on Facebook.

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