Searching for Home

 

Modern-Day Bethlehem and the West Bank wall
Modern-Day Bethlehem and the West Bank wall

Passage for Reflection:  Ruth 1:16b

“Do not press me to leave you or to turn back from following you! Where you go, I will go; Where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God.

What does “home” mean to you? Is it the place that keeps you safe?  Is it the place that encourages you to grow, to pursue your dreams, to become better than you are?  Is it the place to which you return or the place that you’re trying to find?  Is it the place you know or the place where you are known?  Robert Frost said that “home is the place where when you have to go there, they have to take you in.” (Personally, that sounds a lot like grace to me!)  Emily Dickinson said “where thou art, that is home.”  Ann Danielson said that “home is where your story begins.”  So when did home turn into something that we protect, something that we “own”, something that we use to close the doors and shut out the world?  When did home become something that keeps us where we are?  When did home become our stopping point?

These words of Ruth’s are not, as popular culture’s wedding traditions often assume, about a married or a marrying couple.  They are a daughter-in-law’s words to her mother.  And perhaps buried deep within their meaning is something even more.  They are also the words of a displaced, homeless wanderer desperately searching for home.  They are the words of one who lives in poverty and exile who is looking for a new story, a new life.  They are the words that begin a journey to Bethlehem.  So, Ruth, the Moabite, the foreigner, the one who really does not belong in the story travels with Naomi in search of a home.  And she becomes a part of the story, a story that also happens in Bethlehem.  Generations later, the Gospel writer known as Matthew will name Ruth as the ancestor of Jesus.

We will read the story of Jesus’ birth in a few weeks and we will bemoan the fact that there was no room for him, no home for him to begin his life on this earth.  Maybe that was the point.  Maybe it was because the world as it was, a world full of homelessness and poverty, a world full of empires vying for control, a world full of those who would shut the doors of their homes to others, was never really going to be home.  There was never really room for Jesus in this world the way it was.  And he lived a little more than three decades, we are told, wandering, never really settled, in search of a home.

Maybe that is what this season of Advent with of its stories of exiles and wild men in the wilderness, stories of misfits and rebels that are searching for a place to belong, a place that makes sense, a place that fits with the vision that they have been shown, teaches us.  (Good grief, ANOTHER Advent lesson?!?)  13th and 14th century theologian Meister Eckhart once said that “God is at home; it is we who have gone out for a walk.” Maybe, then, home is not the place where we hide under the covers all warm and toasty; maybe it is not the place to which we return but rather the place to which we are drawn.  Our faith journey is an incredible act of searching for home.  It is not the place that makes us comfortable but the place that gives us meaning, the place that makes us real, the place that makes us become who God calls us to be.  That vision that God holds for us is not one that draws us into the unknown but rather one that brings us home.  “Home is where your story begins.”  It begins now.  Have you ever thought that Advent is not about making room for Christ in the midst of what you know but rather following Christ in search of God’s vision of Home, not a home in some far off place in your next life, but home with God even now?  Advent is not about making room for God in your life but rather following God into the life in which God has made room for you.  But sometimes, like Ruth, you have to leave what you know behind.

Reflection:  What does “home” mean to you?  What places do you need to leave behind to search for home?

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

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