Monday, Dec. 19:
AM Psalm 61, 62; PM Psalm 112, 115;
Zeph. 3:14-20; Titus 1:1-16; Luke 1:1-25
The past six months, I have had too much of traveling—to California and to Virginia, to Boston, to Calgary, to Montgomery and to Connecticut and three times to western North Carolina. There have been too many strange beds, too much of fishing clothes out of a suitcase, too many nights without my husband. I wake up in unfamiliar places and I long for the way the sun rises over the oaks in my own front yard. I desire the feel of my favorite mug in my hands as I enjoy that first taste of morning coffee. A North Carolina potter made the cup, and its earthy reddish tones remind me of the red clay dirt of Alabama where I grew up.
North Carolina and Alabama: the two places my soul most calls home.
By the time of Advent I will be home. But I know full well that as I settle in and prepare for the arrival of family, and for a family wedding that is already brimming with gladness, my yearning for home will not be assuaged.
I will get out decorations that I have enjoyed, and then repacked, for almost forty years. Some are older than I: a paper angel from my mother, some strangely appealing gold-sprayed-plastic-stars and a carved wooden Swiss music box from my grandmother. Every year as I unwrap them I am reminded again. As a child I belonged to a place and to people where someone else was the “real adult”. In those moments the ache surfaces for something beyond 704 Greenwood, a place where someone older than I am makes the home and I simply enter in and receive.
So it’s not just about the travel. Or the places I have lived or the places I have left. This desire for home persists, regardless of geography. Advent provokes me to submit to the out-of-jointness of my soul. I am meant to lean into the darkening of winter, towards the light that will rise in the east.
The young family in the Advent story speak of places that are not home and of waiting: a girl on a donkey, heading away from family just a few weeks before her baby is due. She will have no familiar faces to look into, no mother’s or sister’s hands to hold as the pain of labor drags her into its fury. No familiar room to labor in, just shared space with animals.
That displacement doesn’t end once the baby arrives. The labor room of a cave-barn and then the borrowed house in Bethlehem lead not to home but to exile in Egypt. But even when they return to Nazareth, they will live with unsettled hearts. They have a prophetic word. This child will bring both joy and sorrow.
A sword will pierce Mary’s heart. Nazareth will not be home enough. Their lives have been disrupted—for good.
Mary’s child will also know the pain of not belonging. As he grows up, he speaks often of the Father who sent him, the Father to whom he will return. He asks his Father to bring those he loves to be with him in the Father’s house. He promises his friends that one day they will have a home with him and his Father. But they must wait.
I need the reminder that for the rest of this life I am to yearn for what lies ahead. I need to learn the endurance that turns waiting into hope. Waiting is good for my heart. If I listen, I will hear the truth: I’m part of the exile, a woman headed home. Advent coaches me to wait expectantly, and perhaps even to glimpse, what lies ahead.
(Today’s exercise: Take a moment to thank God for your house. Thank him for the particularly good things about your house. Recall to mind all the places that you have felt “at home” in your life and ask God to give you the grace, in Christ, to be “home” for others.)