There you are again, in that same familiar driveway, though it’s less familiar now than it once was. Every year, when you were a child, your family would pull up to this house and you would stumble out of the car and into the designated Christmas house where all the extended family would gather.
But as the years have gone by, the trips to this house have become less and less frequent. But here you are again, with your own family, another generation gathering together for the holidays. As you step out of the car, you quietly remind your spouse who everyone is: “She’s my cousin, and she’s married to so and so. They have two kids. And what was the name of her sister? Yes, that’s right – and where does she live again?”
You get the names straight and you go to the back of the car to get the generalized Christmas gifts out of the car. It’s an assortment of Hickory Farms gift boxes, t-shirts and knick knacks from your own town to remind everyone where you’re from, and the other things you buy for the folks that you don’t truly know very well but are still family, and your brood stumbled up to the front door.
Then comes the meal and the catch up time – “Are you still working at…? And what about your son? Is he still…? And how is…” So it goes, until after the turkey and dressing is eaten, and you head back to the car.
As you drive away, there’s part of you that’s glad you were there. Family is a good thing, after all, and these people are family. But there’s the other part of you that marvels at how different everyone gathered in that room is. Despite all being fruits on the same family tree, there are different values, different economic levels, and different occupations. That’s when the conversation drifts to the elephant in the car. That one cousin. Or that one uncle. Or that one aunt.
They’re the “Cousin Eddie” of the family – out of work, aimless, always certain to say the inappropriate thing at the inappropriate time, and yet not self-aware enough to know that it was inappropriate. You giggle a little bit, because you can’t help but like the guy because of his quirkiness, but at the same time you know that you’re not going to be inviting Cousin Eddie to come and stay with you for an extended period of time.
It’s great to hang out with him for a few hours at Christmas, but let’s be real. He wouldn’t really fit in your context, would he? You couldn’t take him to the gym with you because who knows what he would wear? And you couldn’t really have him hang out with your real friends because who knows what he would say? Nope, he’s better left in that house at that time – a once a year reminder of the strangeness that family sometimes brings along with it, a character that only comes out when it’s story time around the dinner table.
Everyone has that part of the family don’t they? That branch on the tree that’s just a little different; the one that doesn’t quite fit with the rest. It’s the branch that you just smile and nod at as they tell their jokes and complain about their bosses. On the best days, it’s that part of the family you remember with nostalgia; on the worst days it’s the ones you think of with shame.
Though those branches might be present on virtually every earthly family tree, there is no such branch in the family of God:
“For in bringing many sons to glory, it was entirely appropriate that God—all things exist for Him and through Him—should make the source of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For the One who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father. That is why Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers, saying ‘I will proclaim Your name to My bothers; I will sing hymns to You in the congregation’ ” (Hebrews 2:10-12).
Amazing to think that Jesus is not ashamed of His family. There is no awkwardly shaped branch on the family tree of God. Jesus, devoid of any prejudice or pretense, unashamedly proclaims the name of the Father who is measureless in love and compassion to His brothers.
Without exception. What a glorious thought that Jesus is unashamed of me. And you. And even them, too.