20 Look! I’m standing at the door and knocking. If any hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to be with them, and will have dinner with them, and they will have dinner with me.
As she stood in the greeting card and stationary aisle at Target, Patricia took a moment to silently confirm something she had long suspected: she was not a “party person.” Honestly, she had known this for quite some time. She had never been the sort of person to create custom name tags out of construction paper or little gift bags stuffed with designer tissue paper and gourmet chocolates. Patricia was consistently astonished at the level of creativity and hard work that all of her friends put into their special events.
She took a step back and took in the display of invitation and thank-you cards laid out in neat stacks on the shelves. Quietly scanning them, Patricia sighed, and rubbed the bridge of her nose. Why in the world was this so difficult?
Her brother had called her in early August, while she was making dinner. “It’s Dad,” her brother had said, “He’s not well. The doctors say he’s very sick.”
“How sick?” Patricia asked, stirring carrots into the thick red sauce.
“Sick enough that they’re giving him a timeline. It’s bad, Trish. You need to see him.”
She gave a slight, sarcastic laugh. “Why? We haven’t talked in, what, six years? Seven? Why would I need to talk to him?” She gave the sauce a quick stir. “I doubt we’d even have anything to say to each other.”
Her brother paused for a second. “The doctors say he’s very sick.”
Patricia sighed. She picked up a pen and an old take-out menu. “Fine,” she said. “How can I get ahold of him?”
Although neither her husband nor her daughter would say it out loud, Patricia could tell that they were both surprised by how festive their home looked that December. Holiday decorating, like party planning, was a skill reserved for a small portion of the population, and Patricia had never seen the point in either. In her 12 years of marriage, the entirety of her Christmas decoration collection had fit into an old apple box that sat on a shelf in the basement.
Still, that December, Patricia found herself at Crate and Barrel, buying up enough decorations to fill two whole shopping carts. She still wasn’t much of a decorator, but she found a display that she thought looked appropriately festive and bought up everything in it. When it came time to buy a tree, Patricia found a $200 blue spruce from the nursery up the street. She had it delivered to her home, and spent an entire afternoon decorating it from top to bottom, just like the tree pictured on the front of the ornament box.
“If he survives until Thanksgiving,” she had said to her husband on the way home from church one Sunday in early October, “I’ll invite him to Christmas dinner with our family.”
He glanced over at her from the driver’s seat and paused before asking, “Are you sure about that? He might actually survive that long, y’know.”
She looked directly at him and said, “Of course I’m sure. I wouldn’t say it if I wasn’t sure, would I?”
He shrugged. “I’m just saying, Pat. Sometimes those ‘time left’ estimates that doctors give can be way off. What if he actually lives that long? Are you really ready to invite him into our house? On Christmas?”
Patricia sat up in her seat. “What are you implying? Of course I’m ready. Of course I am. Why wouldn’t I be?” she asked. After he didn’t answer, she added, “Anyways, it probably won’t matter. The doctors say he’s very sick.”
The morning of Christmas, Patricia woke up before her family. She padded down the hallway in her slippers and bathrobe, and brewed herself a cup of peppermint tea. Sitting down at the table, she began to silently go over the enormous list of things that needed to be done in the next few hours. She would need to make sure Tom scooped the snow off the sidewalk and laid down salt before her father arrived. Before her father arrived. The words unexpectedly resonated through her body, causing her fingers to briefly tremble on the warm rim of her coffee mug.
Patricia’s chest tightened and her mouth became dry. Before her father arrived. For the last four months, she had successfully pushed back all of the anxiety and fear that had been slowly mounting inside of her. But right then, early in the morning on Christmas day, sitting amongst all of the festive decorations in her still quiet home, she found that she was no longer able to avoid the question that had been inside of her for the last four months: would it be enough? What would it be like, when her father knocked on her front door and they saw each other for the first time in seven years? Would all of the decorating and baking and preparation be enough to mend the gap that had formed between them? What would he think of her home? Of her family? Of her?
Patricia looked at the door. And she waited.
Prayer: “Dear God, grant us the love to hope for what we do not yet see. Grant us the faith to hope for what we do not yet see. Grant us the bravery to hope for what we do not yet see. Amen.”