For those who will not be “home for Christmas”

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Our home state of Tennessee is experiencing the worst COVID outbreak in the nation. Our conservative governor is not one to overreact, but last night he made a brief address to the people of Tennessee, a rare move for Governor Lee. Our COVID numbers have soared since Thanksgiving. Governor Lee issued only one mandate: a 10-person limit on public gatherings through January 16. Churches and in-home gatherings are exempt from the mandate. Though he has not told us that we must stay apart at Christmas, he asked us Tennesseans not to get together with anyone outside our personal household at Christmastime this year.

Whether under a mandate or not, many people around the country have changed their plans for Christmas this year. Many will forego being with the people they love. I expect that the song, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” will bring tears to more eyes this year than it has at many times in the past. In light of that, I am sharing a poem called “The Christmas Box” by Edgar A. Guest.

Edgar A. Guest and his family immigrated to the United States in 1881 and settled in Detroit. While still a teenager, he began working at the Detroit Free Press newspaper. Guest became a beloved poet across America. During World War I, he wrote a collection of poems called Over Here and dedicated it to “The Mothers Over Here.” One poem in that collection is “The Christmas Box.” It is about a family who has a precious son who is far away from home in World War I. In spite of the distance between them, his family has sent their love in “The Christmas Box.”

The Christmas Box
Edgar A. Guest

Oh, we have shipped his Christmas box with ribbons red ’tis tied,
And he shall find the things he likes from them he loves inside,
But he must miss the kisses true and all the laughter gay
And he must miss the smiles of home upon his Christmas Day.

He’ll spend his Christmas ’neath the Flag; he’ll miss each merry face,
Old Glory smiling down on him must take his mother’s place,
Yet in the Christmas box we’ve sent, in fancy he will find
The laughter and the tears of joy that he has left behind.

His mother’s tenderness is there, his father’s kindly way,
And all that went last year to make his merry Christmas Day;
He’ll see once more his sister’s smile, he’ll hear the baby shout,
And as he opens every gift we’ll gather round about.

He cannot come to share with us the joys of Christmas Day;
The Flag has called to him, and he is serving far away.
Undaunted, unafraid and fine he stands to duty grim,
And so this Christmas we have tried to ship ourselves to him.

In this photograph taken in France just after World War I ended, officers serve cocoa, sandwiches, cake, oranges, nuts, and grapes to enlisted men on Christmas night, 1918.

I pray that we will all love each other more, that we will relish the joys of being together when we can, and that we will find as many ways as possible to shine the light of Jesus on everyone—even when we have to “ship ourselves” to them. This is the year to find creative ways to show love to one another and to be grateful—for God’s love, His gift of His Son, and the indwelling of His Holy Spirit.

I am giving you a new commandment,
that you love one another; just as I have loved you,
that you also love one another.
By this all people will know that you are My disciples:
if you have love for one another.
John 13:34-35


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