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We opened the classroom door and a man of honor in dress blues stepped in to surprise his younger siblings.  8 year old Emma squeeled his name, and dashed into his arms.  Tears streamed down her cheeks as she poured out a year of worry, prayer and love that had been bound up inside anticipating his arrival.  It felt like stepping into a movie scene.  Around the room, the adults were wiping tears and snapping photos.  These surprises, when a member of our military is able to be #homeforchristmas, no words can describe the moment.

Click here to watch video of homecoming reunion….

It began in the middle of the ocean in the Middle East, during one of our limited email conversations during his 9 month deployment.   He typed the words… “I’ll be home for Christmas, but don’t tell the kids, I want to surprise them.”  Just reading those words made me tear up.  As the months passed and we waited in anticipation, we knew that this reunion would be incredible.  And it was.

Foreign policy and politics are not my priority, and I’m often disheartened.  Until I had a son in the military, I was lackadaisical at best.  However, when it is someone you love who is defending the freedom of so many, it changes you.  When you get an inside view to the conditions, and the risks…  when you get an email that says a helicopter went down and it was his unit, the cost of freedom becomes so very apparent.

As I watched our 25 year old Marine embrace his 8 year old sister, being #homeforchristmas took on a whole new perspective.  Let’s be honest, family stuff is complicated, and all the gifts, tinsel and glitter doesn’t always fix that.  For many of us, family and extended family and time together when the expectation is that we all play nice together and be happy, well, it is overwhelming.  Some family moments are like this reunion, and others, well, maybe we don’t look forward to them quite so much.

I’m sure time will soften this memory, but I can’t help but think that perhaps we all need to focus a bit more on grace this Christmas.  A year ago we prayed, hugged and put him on a plane knowing that he was heading into the heart of conflict, on a boat.  And then we prayed, without ceasing.  It could have looked so different.  For many families, it does look different.  Permanent injuries, and even death are what waits them at their #homeforchristmas moment.  If we look through that lens, perhaps our brother who hardly speaks to us will seem a bit more lovable, or our in-laws who always seem to have some comment that leaves us feeling less than enough, well maybe we can view them with different eyes, or, or, or.  What if next Christmas, their chair was empty?  Lord, may we rejoice even in the hard relationships this year.

I’m reminded of Simeon in the temple court who was filled with the Holy Spirit.  He was anticipating Jesus.  He couldn’t wait to get his hands on him, and rejoiced in song when he saw him.   As we waited for Matt to come #homeforchristmas, we got a taste of real anticipation.  Waiting to see and lay hands on our Marine, and the emotion that followed was overwhelming.

Simeon waited for baby Jesus, and as Christians we are waiting for the man, Jesus, to come again.  May we savor the days leading up to Christmas and feel the anticipation.  And may we embrace our family with different perspective this year.  May we thank God for the way he created them, and pray that he would give us a heart like his heart in the hard situations.  And as we succumb to the anticipation of the season, may the reminder that he is coming again flood our hearts.  Earthly homecomings are but a foretaste of the second coming.  As we wipe tears when we see videos like this over the holiday’s, it’s not just about “other” families, it’s about each of us.  Who in your family needs a #homeforchristmas moment?