Feeling a tad nervous as you prepare to join friends and family around this year’s holiday table?   How will you keep politics from blowing the turkey right through the ceiling?   That’s the image I can’t get out of my head.  Even the turkey might explode.

   We have survived the most contentious election in living memory.  For a year now, it’s been all-politics-all-the-time.  The man with hair that makes me twitch is now President.  The woman unable to break the glass ceiling is nowhere to be seen and she will sow in other pastures than the Presidency.

    So our strong opinions have become....stronger.   Mine included.  But the deal is this:  we will come together around the turkey and the cranberry sauce very soon.   And with precious little time to repair our battered political nerves.  

    How will we keep our friendships and family relationships from tearing apart?  Let me offer a few thoughts, most of which come from my mistakes.     My larger extended family is this wily breed of Scots-Irish folks straight out of J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy mountains.  It’s a prolific clan of nearly 25 first cousins, now with big-city educations.   Most of us show up on Facebook regularly.   And we all think we are right.  About nearly everything.

    Some of us are quietly celebrating the outcome of this election and those that are don’t quality as bigots.  Others are angry, disappointed, in shock that the country did not buy what progressives were selling.  And some, like me,  cannot shake the sense of mourning that this great country was reduced to these two choices for President.  God help us.

    In the interest of keeping the turkey together--and the family--as you gather around your table, let me offer a few suggestions, some I”ve learned the hard way.

    Head the angst off at the pass.   The great temptation in families and friendships is to fall into extremes.   Either talking is taboo and you never address the elephant of wildly differing opinions...or you spit out your uncensored comments (the ones you’d never say at work) because if’s family and family is just supposed to love you anyway.  

    Well, maybe not.

    It’s better to take a deep breath and carefully, thoughtfully, gingerly say a few simple truths to Aunt Mary or Cousin Tim--whoever most tempts you to walk on total eggshells--and say those things ahead of time.

    You want to couch your remarks in that immortal “sandwich”  you hear about.

        Our relationship means a lot to me.

        I know we don’t think the same on (abortion, same sex marriage, who won         this election,  Donald Trump’s hair, WHATEVER).   I just want to                 acknowledge that in some way because...

        You’ve always been one of my favorite cousins. 

    Clearly, the beef is in the middle.   Trust me, it is total instinct to start in with all that stuff you disagree violently on.   But follow the yellow brick road:  something positive, followed by the hard part,  completed by something positive.

    You can do this, I promise. 

    It’s the negative labeling that’s a killer in all this.   Even the hint, the mildest suggestion that the people you disagree with are....crazy, haters, racists, ignorant...the list goes on,  that’s when the turkey starts to explode and with it,  the relationship.  Never has there been an election season where so much contempt has been expressed in so many places.  Don’t let your holiday gathering be one of those.

    Finally,  remember that no leader and no political solution can save us.   I remind myself of that so often these days.   No political party--conservative or progressive--will usher in utopia.   Our hope--at least, as Christians--is in a God who delivers.   This God who came to us in Jesus when we least expected it and don’t deserve it.   There is no other rock

    So let us gather this season,  who’s in Who-ville one and all,  gathering as we always have, because it’s dark out there and we need each other.  

    If our national soul stands any chance of healing, I’m convinced it will begin around your table and mine.