They Won't Be Home for Christmas
by Rev. Fr. Theodore E. Ziton
Several years ago America's top singers introduced a new Christmas song that proved to be an immediate hit; "I'll be home for Christmas" caught on like wildfire because it expressed a longing rooted deep in our hearts. This urge to celebrate Christmas in the inner sanctum of the family circle stems from the religious significance of this holiday which, it would seem, can be fully grasped only with the sacredness of the home.
People will travel hundreds of miles, overlook expenses, renounce pet family grudges and forget business in order to be "home for Christmas." We'll greet the New Year on Times Square, spend the Easter holidays abroad and motor to the mountains or lake regions on the Forth of July, but at Christmas there is no place like home!
Did you ever stop to think that there are quite a number of individuals who will not be home for Christmas so that YOU can count on them? In fact, if you can enjoy in perfect security that wonderful family reunion at Christmas, if your mind can rest at ease on that day with the certitude that emergencies will be promptly taken care of, or if you can pick up your phone to put through a greeting call to a loved one in some distant community, it is all thanks to those public servants who won't be home for Christmas because of their devotion in the line of duty.
While you leisurely enjoy your Christmas dinner, transportation and communication lines will be kept alive, speeding news and the necessities of life across the continent. The trainman will flash his all-aboard signal, the telephone operator will route your long-distance call, the radio newscaster will keep you informed on the latest developments, the cab-driver will pick you up and drive you to the other end of town on time for the family get-together, all because these people won't be home for Christmas!
The old Christmas tree in your neighborhood is apt to catch fire, some unscrupulous prowler may want to take advantage of the holiday lull to "lift" a few valuables, accidents will happen and sickness will strike on Christmas as they do every day. Yet you rest secure with the assurance that even on Christmas Day, because hardy fellowmen consent not to be home for the occasion, the pull of a lever will rush alert firefighters to the scene of a threatening tragedy, dialing a police number will dispatch a squad car to your aid, and the arrival of an ambulance at the emergency entrance of any hospital will promptly summer the professional attention of an interne.
There is another group of servants of God and men who will not be home for the festivities, that your Christmas may be more blessed and merry. Like the Star of Bethlehem showing the way to the Babe, the light over the Holy Altar in our Churches will be kept bright throughout the vigil of Christmas and burn long into the hours of that joyful holy day. Across the land Eastern Orthodox Priests will remain at their post cleansing souls, bringing from the pulpit tidings of great joy and calling down upon the Holy Altar the selfsame Incarnate God Who illumined the Cave of Bethlehem two thousand years ago.
Out of the same sense of duty, a Midnight Divine Liturgy will be offered in Eastern Orthodox Churches throughout the world, dispensaries will remain open to suffering humanity in remote areas of the missionary fields, because Priests, men and women dedicated to the service of Christ in their fellow beings unselfishly will choose not to he home for Christmas. The hiss of international hatred will continue to be smothered by the prayerful voices of chanting Priests, Monks and Nuns of the Orthodox Church who will remain behind cloistered the walls to re-echo the angels' message to men of good will.
So thank God at Christmas for that train whistle, that radio beep, that tinkling telephone, that ambulance siren, the thud of the policeman's footsteps on the beat, the fire engine's clanging bell, the vigilant light over the Holy Altars in your parish Church. Some people won't be home for Christmas… BUT THEN, NEITHER WAS THE THREESOME (JOSEPH, MARY, AND THE CHRISTCHILD) IN THE STABLE OF BETHLEHEM!
Publication of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America