Alex was almost to the top of the hill, on a gravel road winding through Victoria’s High Country, on her bike. She lives in Canberra and was on the way to Bairnsdale, taking the road less travelled, through some of the bush and towns impacted in the summer fires. We were up there as bush chaplains with Frontier Services last week. In the middle of a hot day, Alex was almost out of water, so we stopped and filled her bottles, had a quick chat and gave her a couple of apples.
Here’s a blessing for Alex and for all those on the way home now the borders are open, and Christmas is coming: Blessings on the travellers who are making their way home. May their luggage be light and their pathway smooth, and may they dodge any wandering cattle on the way. May they find rest and refreshment on the journey and delight in the anticipation of home. When they arrive, may they be met with open arms and shrieks of delight, and may the stories they have stored over the past year of struggles find willing ears and plenty of time to tell.
And a blessing for the homes of welcome: Blessings on the homes who welcome family and friends as Christmas draws near. May the work to get ready be a labour of love and may the greeting meet and exceed expectations of joy. May their tables of plenty be enough for all, with leftovers to share, and may there be an extravagance of time to enjoy the sheer nearness of those we have missed.
Finally, a blessing for those who are not going home and not welcoming others who may be away: Blessings on the homes where empty chairs hold more stories than the occupied ones, where sorrow and grief sit like dark clouds over this time and increase the loneliness and lostness. May there be glimpses of wonder in the midst of the pain, a word of kindness, a memory not too painful to hold, a gift of love unexpected. After all, it was in a strange place, a long way from home, that a young woman gave birth to a child, who would grow to tell the world an unforgettable, unimaginable story of love.