Editor’s Note: As part of our “Comfort and Joy” Advent/Christmas blog series, former community member Allison Walter shares her reflections on the holiday season and the call to action that it contains.
For me, going home for the holidays is one of the most joyful experiences of the year. When I was in school it meant finishing up my last final as quickly as possible and rushing back to my dorm to pack my bag. Now that I live farther from home it means getting to the airport extra early because I’m too eager to wait in my apartment a minute longer. I arrive home to puppy kisses, homemade cookies, and shouts from my brothers.
My family’s favorite holiday tradition is the quintessential “tree sit.” The nights leading up to Christmas, we turn off all the lights in the house except for the Christmas tree lights and the whole family piles onto the couch to gaze at the beauty of the tree and just be together. For me, being uncomfortably snuggled between my brothers on a couch that is too small for five people is the definition of comfort and joy.
For some, such experiences of comfort and joy will never happen. There is no ‘home’ to go home to. Recently when I was recounting my family’s tradition, a good friend reminded me that the holidays are not joyful for everyone. For some, it means going back to broken families that fight too much. For others it is the anniversary of the death of a loved one. Some live too far from home and are alone during the holidays.
This year especially, anticipating the holidays with my family makes me think of the countless migrants and refugees who don’t have a place to call home. It’s also at this time of year that we remember that the Holy Family were also refugees, searching for hospitality and shelter from the threat of violence.
That may feel far off and abstract, but Pope Francis has called Catholics to welcome these people who are seeking some measure of comfort and stability for their families. Pope Francis says these refugees are not ‘countless numbers’ but our brothers and sisters.
Whether it’s a refugee, a lonely neighbor, or simply a close friend with a broken family, I think the true spirit of comfort and joy would be to open our homes to those who need a happy place to spend the holidays.
Question for reflection: What can you do to answer Pope Francis’ call to action to welcome our brothers and sisters who are seeking comfort?
Allison Walter is a senior fellow with Faith in Public Life in Washington, DC and a regular contributor to the National Catholic Reporter. Allison’s previous work with the Nuns on the Bus and with Catholic Charities in St. Louis taught her the power of faith to transform the world, from local communities to national politics.
*Featured image: adaptation of photo by Flickr user James Emery – labeled for reuse