The theme of this year’s Advent devotion is: Do you see what I see? An array of St. Paul voices selected a photo or photos that hold very special memories to them, then sat down and reflected on what that photo means to them. What do they see and remember that others may not when looking at this photo? Through their words and stories, hopefully, you’ll see a little of what they see.
Each Advent, I look forward to setting up our nativities collected from many places around the world. Each has its own cultural backdrop: the simple comforts of colorful native blankets, warm-bodied animals (some exotic), and make-do furnishings where God chose to join the human race. This was the first place Jesus called home.
Where is the first home that you remember? Take a moment and breathe in the scents. Listen to the sounds. Is there happiness there? Sadness? How was love shared?
According to recent census and moving industry statistics, the average American moves 12 times in a lifetime and owns upwards of 5 homes. As you read this, one in ten of you is on the move.
Where do you call home? Slow down and think about this. Is home a memory that is conjured at certain holidays? If so, is there a whiff of a spice or casserole that instantly transports you?
An author I admire, M. Craig Barnes, in Searching for Home, asks us these questions: where and what and when is home? Of course, there are various answers: a place where family is, a place to rest, a place where round-the-clock nurses are available, a place where hope is, a lonely place, something from the past… and then he asks another searching question: are we still waiting to find a home?
Here’s the insightful answer that Barnes gives—and I think it’s useful for all of us in this Advent season: “Home is the place where we were created to live from eternity and for eternity—with our true Family of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is where we find life. It is where we belong, and we will never be content with any place other than that communion. And that is why we go to worship when the world is crashing down on us. Being in worship isn’t the same thing as being at home. But it is our only way of calling home.”
May each of your worship spaces be a welcome home.
Let us pray: Generous God, our hearts sometimes have a terrible yearning. We often feel unsettled and alone. Some of us will not be able to go home for the holidays. Lord, BE our home. Feed us with your forgiveness. Nurture us with your boundless acceptance. Linger at your cradle with us. Amen.
Jennifer Henry is a retired ELCA pastor who looks forward to finding her next nativity. She thoroughly enjoys calling St. Paul her home.