Christmas is unapologetically about leaving home and finding it again. Mary left home to be with Joseph. Mary and Joseph left home to comply with tax law and gained a baby to boot. Their infant was birthed in an unfamiliar barn and wrapped in second-hand swaddling clothes. The burgeoning family was forced to stay away from home due to Herod’s bloodlust, but the trio returned eventually to Nazareth where Jesus matured at home in relative obscurity. He evidently lost his father along the way; the Gospels make no mention of Jospeh beyond Jesus’ bar mitzvah. Entering his third decade, Jesus left mother and siblings behind and assumed an itinerant ministry, choosing not to put down roots. “And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Matthew 8:20, ESV). Along the way, Mary, Martha and Lazarus formed a surrogate home of sorts, but three short years into his ministry Jesus was abandoned by friends, murdered in a strange city by an estranged people, and placed in a borrowed tomb. A few days later that seemed like an eternity he was finally home again with Father.
Home always was and always will be defined by the ones who know you deeply and value you despite the truth they discover about you. “I live in my own little world. But it’s OK, they know me here” (Lauren Myracle). Home for me as a boy growing up in Port Arthur was Mother. I do not say that to take anything away from Dad, but Momma held time and space together for our family with Herculean strength. She still does even though she has been gone from us more than eight years. Home was wherever Mom was, especially when she was on duty in the church library, or at the Bible Book Shoppe where she worked to help make ends meet. I think of her every day, especially when I enter a frequent haunt—the library. “It was good to walk into a library again; it smelled like home” (Elizabeth Kostova). I took home for granted as a child, but went in search of it again as a young man when I went away to college. Unfortunately, I lost my way choosing the wrong road back; I eventually came to my senses in a distant land, only to realize that home was somewhere I didn’t belong. “How often have I lain beneath rain on a strange roof, thinking of home” (William Faulkner).
Credit divine intervention and a good woman with helping me find home again. I cling to it now like a drowning man clutching driftwood to keep his head above water. Whoever opined familiarity as contemptible didn’t know beans from parched coffee about what it means to return home. Whether returning home from a business trip, vacation, or long endured emotional void—the result is the same: in a word, contentment; in two words, safe place. “The ache for home lives in all of us. The safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned” (Maya Angelou, All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes). Christmas reminds us that God did the unthinkable so we may return home and stay put. The Father takes us as we are and declares we are home with each unconditional embrace. Christmas declares with resounding voice, “You can go home again.”