Going home

December 21, 2016 | Viewpoints | Volume 21 Issue 1
Melissa Miller |

One of the sweetest phrases in the Bible, “The Word became flesh and lived among us” (John 1:14), is often heard at Christmas. With joy and gratitude, we celebrate the incarnation, God taking on human flesh in Jesus, and making a home with us. Similarly, the vision of Revelation 21:3 proclaims in The Message: “Look! Look! God has moved into the neighbourhood, making his home with men and women!” Images of home—God making a home with and for us, and our making our home in God—abound in the Bible.

Home is central at Christmas. As I write this in mid-December, many of us are packing up children and gifts, preparing to drive or fly long distances to go home and be with family. Others are stocking refrigerators and setting up beds to receive returning sons and daughters. Home is a little word that occupies a big space in our hearts. Home is, we hope, a place of belonging, connection, security and happiness. God’s willingness to make a home with us means the Divine is always present, as close as our neighbours. God’s willingness to make a home for us means we are never alone or without shelter.

I had an unusual experience this past fall. After 40 years of living away from home, I returned to the southwestern corner of Pennsylvania where I was raised, and where most of my extended family lives. For four months, my husband and I offered support to my aging mother, soaked up family visits and savoured the local delights. What a gift it has been! (See ‘You say goodbye, I say hello.’)

I understand, and to some degree agree with, the maxim, “You can’t go home again.” I can’t return to being a teenager, or wipe out the experiences that have shaped my beliefs and thinking. I can’t avoid noticing and, to some extent, judging the differences between locals and myself. I can’t pick up with family members and friends as if I’ve always been here and will be physically present in the future.

Still, keeping those factors in mind, I am ever so thankful to be able to go home to the land of my birth. I am blessed to revisit a beautiful part of the world, with its many purple-blue mountains and fertile valleys. I revel in the tastes: apple butter, red beet pickled eggs, venison steak, black walnut ice cream, to name a few. I delight in informal family visits, joining my sister to stroll around the duck pond, playing games with my nephew’s young children, receiving another bowl of vegetable soup at my mother’s table. I am grateful to encounter those who remember my departed loved ones. Going home feeds an inner yearning. All these experiences also make me mindful of those who have lost homes due to conflict, war or the fragmentation of mobility.

Homecoming has some tensions. Differences are highlighted. Familiar routines are upended. The displaced brother grumbles about losing his bed. The princess wants her breakfast toast just a certain way. Grandma might be too overwhelmed to feed the whole crew, even if she protests that she is completely capable and committed to the task. Political, religious or lifestyle differences might rub a little too closely.

Even so, we need a home, and we need to share it with others. We are designed to be home-seekers and home-makers. Whether we are the travellers or hosts this season, we are called to do our part with grace, flexibility and joy. Ultimately, we find our home in God, the source of being, from whom we came and to whom we return.

Melissa Miller (familyties@mymts.net) has a passion for helping people develop healthy, vibrant relationships with God, self and others.

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