The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; I have a goodly heritage. Psalm 16:6 (NRSV)
This year’s Thanksgiving holiday was an especially good one for the Green family. In fact it may have been one of our absolute best. Of course we say that every year. Well, every year EXCEPT last year. It was the year we lost “the heritage angel.”
Thanksgiving is very big for our family…frankly bigger than Christmas. I’m not sure why it has worked out that way, but it has. We start the day with homemade cinnamon rolls, share our midday feast with family and friends from near and far, watch football games that have been recorded (overseas you don’t get the real thing!), and then we decorate for Christmas. After the house is decorated, we usher in the season of Advent with a toast and watch our first Christmas movie of the year. Lots of tradition!
The majority of our Christmas decorations are homemade, including the angel that tops our tree. I made that angel long before the birth of the children. For almost 30 years, she has topped trees in Texas, in Africa, in Florida, in Europe, and in South Carolina. The privilege of placing the angel at the top of the tree goes to a special guest. She was put in place by our friend, Guacher, from Senegal on more than one occasion. He stands well over 6 feet and just reached out and set her down. She was put there by our friend, Pejman, from Iran. Pejman still calls us every Thanksgiving. International students in Miami took turns setting her in place. Various short term workers over the years have had their opportunity. Sophie, Sis’ dearest friend from Belgium, has had her turn. The angel came to symbolize home, “family” both natural and adopted from around the world, constancy in the uncertainties of the missionary life, and anticipation…Where will she hang next year?
And then the unthinkable happened….I lost her. For those of you who know me, I’m very organized. Losing her was just not possible. Last year was a frantic upset as we tore storage and house apart looking for the lost angel. We finally gave up and topped the tree with something else, but it just wasn’t the same. Home wasn’t home somehow. I wondered why it affected all of us so much, especially me. It is because of what the angel came to represent.
Thanksgiving is a time when we celebrate God’s blessings. Our family has always counted these special friends from around the world as “family” and one of our greatest blessings. Regardless of faith background, we gather around the tree, finishing up our day and thank God for community, for unity, for joy, and for abundant life. This is the heritage we celebrate each year as we position the angel on top of the tree.
By the way, we found her a few days later. Somehow I had put her in the Christmas things I was giving to Sis to take to her place in Washington D.C. David, her boyfriend, had his turn placing her on the tree. The heritage angel returned to South Carolina for this year’s celebration. Next year? Well, if all goes according to plan, she will top a tree in Montreal, Canada. Whose turn will it be to put her there? A new family member, no doubt….