My college was 3000 miles from my home. Naturally I flew during the short winter break. Once I was in Minneapolis for a connecting flight but a snow storm swelled and all flights were cancelled. I remember looking out at the night, watching the snow swirl and wondering if I would get home for Christmas.
That memory has power today as I reflect on how many people in our world have no shelter. The Syrian refugee crisis has made the homeless a daily part of our news cycle. Economic and political refugees from Mexico and Central America continue to seek a home in our nation. Aid agencies and churches seek to serve the homeless in our affluent cities.
And at the heart of my pondering is the story of Christmas itself. A young couple forced by political powers to make a journey to Bethlehem. There Mary gave birth to her son in a stable, because they had no place to stay. A short time later the new family was forced to flee to Egypt because King Herod felt threatened, insecure. Being homeless seems to be a key part of the ancient Christmas narrative.
Or at least it makes me ponder, just what is home? Is it a place, a shelter, a palace or a shack? Or a set of relationships? As Robert Frost wrote, Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in. Or is home knowing your place in the universe?
As I read the Gospels, Jesus rarely had a permanent residence. His early life in Nazareth is not described. He himself said, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Matthew 8:20). What he did have was a network of friends, disciples, supporters, family. And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother” (Mark 3:34-35).
The value of home ownership in our society is clear. I have supported Habitat for Humanity for years and have seen the power a house can have for a family. To be without shelter is tragic. But a house is not always “home.” As another old proverb says, Home is where the heart is. Where we feel connected and loved and our fears dissipate. Jesus probably felt at home wherever he went, because he lived connected to God and others. That same interconnection is for all creation, including you and me.
Eventually that snow storm in Minneapolis passed and flights resumed to Seattle. I made it home for Christmas and celebrated with family and friends. Yet the memory of that layover serves as a reminder that I remain connected to Christ and others wherever I am. My truest home rests in Christ Jesus.
Where do you find your truest sense of home?