Faces on Faith: Home for the holidays
One of the most popular Christmas songs of all time almost didn’t get recorded. It was written during World War II, and the lyricist, Kim Gannon, wrote it with the millions of soldiers and sailors who were stationed all around the globe in mind. It was originally rejected by various producers in the record industry because it was felt to be too sad. It might bring down the service men and women and their families during the holiday season. But then Gannon had a lucky break. And all because he played golf!
One day, while out on the links with his good buddy Bing Crosby, he decided to try it out on the well-known crooner. “I’ll be home for Christmas,” he sang, “you can plan on me, please have snow and mistletoe, and presents on the tree …” He even sang the line that producers thought was too sad. “I’ll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams.” Crosby liked it. Recorded it. And put it on the flip side of “White Christmas” in October 1943. It ended up being so popular that it stayed on the charts for 11 weeks, peaking at number three. And it returned to the charts the following year as well, reaching as high as number 19. As the USO tours made their way across Europe and the Pacific, it became their most frequently requested song. It has remained a staple of the season, even being requested by Frank Borman and James Lovell as they returned to earth aboard the Gemini 7 spacecraft in December 1965.
This Christmas, some of us will indeed find ourselves at home, where we will be comforted by the familiar and the dear. But due to the coronavirus pandemic, many others will be far from home — and longing for the reassurance that comes from being where you know you belong. And some will be without any home at all. The challenges are real, and for many, seemingly insurmountable.
But Christmas reminds us that even the most seemingly impossible circumstances, like giving birth in a stable, far from home, can reveal the light of God’s love. It is my prayer that in this challenging year we might find new ways to reach out across the things that divide us, not just miles, but also the economic, racial and cultural divides, as well. This Christmas, might we remember those who long for home — and when as we can, might we provide them with a taste of the love made known at Christmas.
The Rev. Dr. John H. Danner is the senior pastor at Sanibel Congregational United Church of Christ.