I’m trying to synthesize this warm notion of these holiday favorites with the words of Peter, who instructs us that, when we are born again in Christ, our definition of “home” changes. “Beloved, I beseech you as sojourners and pilgrims…” (1 Pet. 2:11).
As Christians, we’re not at home here. Home is somewhere else. During Advent, we long for the home – that final resting place we will experience when Jesus returns. So, it’s true – there’s no place like home for the holidays, and we really wish we could be there! In fact, the words from “I’ll Be Home” actually have a strikingly Adventy feel to them: “I am dreaming tonight of a place I love even more than I usually do … home … where the love light gleams.” Might those become words about our true home, the coming Kingdom?
Martin Luther picks up this notion, and drives it home with force: “You are to conduct yourselves as those who are no longer citizens of the world … since you are not of this world, act as a stranger in an inn – one who has not his possessions with him but procures food and gives his gold for it … we should use worldly blessings no more than is needful for health and appetite, and then leave them and go to another land. We are citizens of heaven; on earth we are pilgrims and guests.”
Joseph, Mary and Jesus were strangers at an inn. I’m sure they carried with them very little. They present a great Advent image of following the will of God even though it takes them away from their true home, with few possessions, all for the sake of fulfilling the divine plan of God. What happens to them in that obedience? They are blessed by a malleable innkeeper, stray shepherds, senior saints on the temple mount, and eventually by foreign astrologers who bring them amazing treasures, and divine direction to temporarily move to Egypt (which would have been harder to do with all of their possessions!). Stripped of their things and their relationships, they remain faithful, and God provides for them on their extraordinary journey.
Cozy Christmas ideals urge us to burrow into our houses all the more, and heap possessions on ourselves that often we don’t even need. We really do turn our houses into little slices of heaven. Ironically, the season which is designed to focus our hope on our real home can functionally turn our temporal prosperity into the idol of our worship.
Really, I’m not trying to be a downer! I just truly believe that there is something WAY better to be longing for than the best this world, and even this season, has to offer. When our hearts are gripped by that “home” the way our hearts can be gripped by the coziness of our Christmas celebrations, perhaps our spirits will be appropriately revitalized … the goal of Advent.
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