Anna Thomas
Cathedral Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem

Be joyful in the LORD, all you lands;

Serve the LORD with gladness

And come before his presence with a song.

Psalm 100:1-2

As the magi set out on their pilgrimage of hope and praise all those centuries ago, so do many of us embark on our own personal pilgrimages this time of year. For students like myself, this is an especially anticipated few weeks as finals come to an end and the time comes for us to be with our family and our friends – the family we choose for ourselves.

Today I attend a women’s college, but I was blessed to grow up with a close group of incredible brothers in my church youth group (fittingly, that confirmation class of people all went on our own pilgrimage together to San Francisco as a rite of passage at the end of our J2A program). Even though we now go to school states apart, when we come together again on Christmas Eve every year it’s like nothing has changed. Here we are on Christmas Eve, 2015. The love is just as palpable as it was when we all could come to church and see each other every Sunday.

Throughout the year, all I need to do is look back on our annual Christmas photo, and the physical and emotional pressure of gladness feels as present as it was in that reunion.

I completely re-experience the external love and internal joy of that memory. And my heart is filled all over again.