Christmas is less than two weeks away, and Thanksgiving was just a few weeks ago: the holiday season is here. Over the last few weeks I have been consumed with thoughts of family. I have spent an abnormal amount of time and money buying gifts off Amazon in an attempt to feel part of my family's Christmas this year, and yet all my efforts have failed to close the distance between us. This isn't the first year I have spent the holidays away from home, and I am quite certain it won't be the last. Even so, I can't help but long to be home. I want to hang the ornaments I made in grade school on the tree, bake an excessive amount of cookies, and hope (all the while knowing it is in vain) for a white Christmas.
The idea of family had been foremost in my mind, therefore, and it has been a topic of discussion in my small groups for the last several weeks. Today, Paty, Sylvia and I finished reading through Colossians. Since we only read a chapter each week, this week we read through chapter 4. The first six verses conclude Paul's thoughts that he began in chapter three, but the rest of the chapter is a report on the people in Paul's who either send their greetings, have aided Paul in some way, or are on their way to Colossae. It was particular meaningful to me today, because over the last few weeks I have had requests to pass on greetings to the McKinzie family. We talked about how it is easy to say the church is the family of God, and how easy it is to call fellow Christians brother or sister so-and-so, but a family is more than a label that you stick on a group of people. The names mentioned at the end of Colossians were more than names to Paul, and they were more than names to the church at Colossae. They were family.
I have been here less than a year, but I can say that the church here is my family. It is my family in a way that is only possible when there is no biological family nearby. They are the ones I celebrate with, they are the ones I eat with, they are the people who share my life. Manuela came to my house this afternoon for our weekly meeting, and I asked her to ignore the stack of dishes in the sink, since I hadn't gotten around to washing them yet. We had a wonderful time of discussion and prayer over cookies and coke, but the most significant moment was after we were finished. She went over to my sink and washed all of my dishes. I repeatedly told her it was unnecessary, and that I was able to wash the dishes myself, but after she had started, I realized that I should remain silent. What occurred to me, aside from the fact that I would not have to was the dishes later if she did them now, was that this was the way she showed her love for me. Washing my dishes was the way Manuela served her sister, who clearly was lacking in the dish washing ability category. After she had finished, I had dried the dishes and put them away, I thanked her for her work, and she said to me, that is what families do, we help each other.