December Letter from Executive Director Kelsey Rice Bogdan

It’s that time of year again… the holidays. I say the words and images of crackling fires and cups of steaming hot chocolate, gatherings and good times with old friends magically appear (at Life Together’s Christmas party TOMORROW! RSVP here). I also see my family, sitting around a beautiful Advent wreath over dinner, the candlelight reflecting in their eyes as they soak in the anticipation of this season of waiting for the Christ Child.

Except that we all know well that this image of what this holiday season should be is not fully what it is. Yesterday morning I sat with a group of Emmaus fellows as we shared how we were arriving for the day. The word that kept emerging, from their lips and mine, was “tired.” And maybe there is something to that tiredness beyond the cliche that we all just need to stop binge shopping to recapture “the true meaning of Christmas.” Because in the Christian tradition, there is a wholeness to the liturgical seasons: the joy of Christmas doesn’t exist without the weariness, the profound absence that is Advent. The face missing from the family table. The face not welcomed at the family table. The millions of faces for whom a family table, due to war, poverty, or systemic oppression, is as mythical as Santa Claus.

For those of us in the Life Together community working toward justice, we see this absence of light every day in the world and in the communities where fellows serve. And many days we cry, “How long, O Lord?” Yet just as Christmas feels fake without acknowledging Advent absence, on the other side of that absence is something else. It’s finding one’s real self while chanting in community, as fellow Cole Fiscus describes in this month’s reflection. It’s the difficult conversations that lead to deeper trust. It’s the queer youth, the elderly parishioner, the immigrant mom, and more who do the work of liberation alongside fellows at host sites. It’s the experience of incarnation, of sacred presence, that infuses our relationships if we notice it– knowing beyond words that we are not alone in the struggle.

So this Christmas, I hope you experience sacred presence, however you understand it, and know that you have a seat at Life Together’s family table. I’m grateful for the ways that you have revealed Christ’s light to me and to our fellows in 2018.