So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him we have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God. –Ephesians 2:17-19
With Christmas day less than two weeks away, we’re entering the time of year when people are making plans to travel. Some of us may only need to go a few miles to reach our destinations, while others may need to drive or fly long distances. Our reasons are all the same.
We’re coming home for Christmas.
The word home is loaded with hopes and expectations. Time spent there may include sharing a meal with loved ones or exchanging gifts. It may mean catching up on stories and news with people we haven’t seen for a while. It might also involve sharing in games or concerts and making special memories.
These things are all wonderful, and we might enjoy them very much, but they still may not completely answer our longing for home. Somewhere that we can find peace. A place where we know we will never get hurt again. A space where loss cannot happen, we never have to say good-bye, and we won’t ever be forced to leave it.
Home. A place to stay for as long as we want with people we love. It sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? This is what we’re all hoping for, and what we might be searching for. And yet, it seems so difficult to find. Once we think we may have found it, then it disappears into evaporation right before our eyes. We just can’t seem to hold on to that elusive place our hearts so desperately want to have.
Mary and Joseph strayed far from home at the time their first child was about to enter the world. Their travel did not happen by choice. It was forced upon them by a tyrannical ruler in the Roman Empire. I wonder how Mary felt as distance grew between her, their families, and their home town.
A young woman ready to deliver a baby would want the comfort of her mother and the trusted local midwife nearby. How she must have longed at times for Joseph to just turn the donkey around. It he’d take her back home, she could give birth in her own bed instead of along the road or among strangers.
For as uncertain as the trip may have been for Mary, a moment arrived when she came home. All the things she longed for lay wrapped in the bundle in her arms. This new baby she and Joseph named Jesus would bring her salvation. He would offer her a grace that overcame any of the pain and distress in her journey to Bethlehem. His limitless provisions of peace and love would satisfy her better than the comforts of home back in Nazareth ever could.
She was welcome to stay in this place for as long as she wished. The stark manger in a musty barn probably didn’t hold much charm, but the promise of a relationship with this newborn reached into eternity. Jesus gave her a place in his kingdom that would never end. Mary never needed to leave. She wouldn’t need to say good-bye to him or sustain any loss of his favor and care. She was his and he was hers. Forever.
Are you living far from God this holiday season? Have you lost your way home or forgotten how to find it? Jesus knows your way home. He is your way home. He stands at the door ready to welcome you in.