I am very excited to introduce you to my friend Tara Owens. Tara is a spiritual director and just totally the real deal as far as genuine and authentic people online. She is running an e-course that I think is really worthwhile, so I invited her here to share with you about it. Everyone who took it last year raves about it. Here she is.
I have a penchant for depressing Christmas music, I admit it. As the winter closes her dark wings
over us, my husband and I like to turn off all the lights, ignite the (admittedly, depressingly fake)
fire and listen to Christmas music that makes us ache. The tree twinkles, the house creaks in the
wind, and we sit in semi-darkness, feeling the edges of ourselves. This year, I’m listening to a new
album, Blood Oranges In The Snow, that has a line that makes the hair on my arms stand up and
my gut clench. The song is called “Let It Fall”, and the lyrics are an invitation into something I
can’t quite name:
’Cause rain and leaves
And snow and tears and stars
And that’s not all my friend
They all fall with confidence and grace
So let it fall, let it fall
My husband and I, we’re not masochists, I promise.
And I don’t think we’re alone.
There’s something about this season filled with thanksgiving and tinsel and joy and song that feels
a little like homesickness to me. It’s not strident, it’s not brash, but the undercurrent of the
holidays tugs at us with its longings for something more. Something we struggle to name,
something about hope and about disappointment, something about desire and about loneliness,
something, I would hazard a guess, about where Home really is.
I’ve had the familiar tune, “I’ll Be Home For Christmas,” wending its way through my thoughts
and emotions since, oh, probably late September. It appeared as a snatch of a song, and it has
been persistently presence—you can count on me—almost every day in some way—there’ll be
snow and mistletoe—shape or form.
It takes me a while to catch on, sometimes, and that’s why God winds melodies into my story to
suggest, to invite, to point me in the right direction. It happened when I first came to know Him
with a hymn I’d learned during choir practice, and this year, it happened again with my Christmas
If you’d told me in August just before our daughter was born that I’d feel compelled (with joy,
even) to offer a 6-week interactive online journey and retreat through Advent, Christmas and
Epiphany, I’d have laughed and called you crazy. This holiday season is busy, after all. There are
so many things to juggle, so much pressure from consumer culture shot through with a desire to
redeem the time, to find the sacred in all this mundane, to listen with my heart’s ear to the story
of Christ in the world, Emmanuel, God with us. And this year, as I hold a babe in my arms, it
would be easy to let the overwhelm of this new life we are living pull me away from the rhythms of
Advent, Christmas and Epiphany. Easy, and understandable.
I’ll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams.
The plaintive last line of the song calls me back to myself and to what, I suspect, is going on in
more than a few of us. I’d rather bury the ache with busy-ness than face it head on. The hope, the
desire, the longing for more. I’d rather not risk the homesickness getting deeper, wider in me,
instead I’ll cram my calendar full so I can’t feel any of the empty. I’d rather try to dress it up with
decorations than press into it, let it bloom into something that might, just might, lead me closer to
that which I’m longing for.
But what if the Christian calendar actually invites us to less, not more? What if coming home isn’t
about the destination (the perfect turkey, the Martha Stewart tree, the ideal present wrapped
flawless for everyone) but about the journey?
Here, I’m back to the depressing Christmas songs, not because they are dark, but because they
acknowledge the complexity of this time of year. It’s no coincidence that the longest night of the
year occurs right before Christmas itself, that within the rhythm of the seasons there’s an
acknowledgement that things come with a cost, that they aren’t as they should be.
And there are treasures of darkness to be found, too (Is. 45:3, NKJV). There is something to
dwelling in the hidden places in this season of flash and fanfare, letting the desire for more rise
through us as we wait for the light to increase. There is something to choosing silence while the
world turns up the Christmas carols, something to finding solitude when the holiday-party-
merry-go-round starts spinning.
So, instead of running from Bing Crosby’s siren call, I’m pressing in again, listening. What I hear
is the call of the One who loves us most, the incarnational hope of the One who became small
enough to hold. Can I trust God’s voice? Can I lean into a call and a community this Advent,
finding and forming a journey together into complexity of what it means to come home? Can this
be about more than my strength, but the glorious weakness and wonderment of a group of
pilgrims journeying together toward home?
My heart said yes, as it had been saying yes since the first strains of the song sang through it.
And that’s how Coming Home: An Online Journey Into Advent, Christmas and
Epiphany was born last year, and reborn again this year. Just as the Christ child is reborn again
and again in our remembering and reliving what is true right now.
It’s a risk, I know, to step in when everything pulls at me (and you, I’d wager) to step out. It seems
so much larger than me, and that’s probably the way it should stay, because I can’t control God
any more than I can control the winter wind. I’m excited and terrified and hopeful and full of
longing. I’m wondering and nervous and brimming with the sense that the Wild One is up to
something gloriously good. And gloriously good yet again.
“It is as hard to explain how this sunlit land was different from the old Narnia as it would be to
tell you how the fruits of that country taste. Perhaps you will get some idea of it if you think like
this. You may have been in a room in which there was a window that looked out on a lovely bay
of the sea or a green valley that wound away among mountains. And in the wall of that room
opposite to the window there may have been a looking-glass. And as you turned away from the
window you suddenly caught sight of that sea or that valley, all over again, in the looking glass.
And the sea in the mirror, or the valley in the mirror, were in one sense just the same as the real
ones: yet at the same time they were somehow different—deeper, more wonderful, more like
places in a story: in a story you have never heard but very much want to know. The difference
between the old Narnia and the new Narnia was like that. The new one was a deeper country:
every rock and flower and blade of grass looked as if it meant more.” ― C.S. Lewis, The
Chronicles of Narnia
So will you join me? Will you let the call of less, of longing, of love lead you into
something different this Advent? Will you walk alongside us staggering pilgrims, the
ones who chose for the ache, who press into the darkness, in order to find the light
on the other side? I’d be honored, so honored, if we could walk Home together this
I’ll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams…