There’s something about Christmas that gets people thinking a lot about home. Songs like “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” and “There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays” seem to tap into the longing we have to find ourselves in the place we call home at this time of year.
I have struggled for a long time with what home means for me. When I was growing up, it was a place called Hamilton, Ohio. That’s where all my aunts and uncles, and cousins and grandparents lived. When I got older, I started moving around a lot. The location of the city I called home changed from year to year, but I clearly knew where home was. It was where I was living with my husband and my children. Then, about a dozen years ago, my marriage ended and my children set out to make their own lives and, all of a sudden, for the first time, I was living solo. So, where is home for me now?
I just returned from a trip to Ohio where I spent time with my children, my best friends, my brother and sister, nieces and nephews. And I did it in places I once had called home. But they’re not home for me anymore. It’s always weird to be in one of those places. It feels like whatever life I lived in that place was lived by someone else, not me. And, in a way, it was. It was a former life. So, maybe home is where I’m living my current life.
As I was flying back to Charlotte from the Dayton airport, the trip I thought was going to take a couple hours ended up taking all day. I was exhausted. I just wanted to click the heels of my sneakers together three times and find myself home. I was tired of visiting my former lives. I wanted to be back where I’m living my life now. To that degree, I realize that Charlotte is the place I call home. But it’s a transient home. And even as I return to this home that I’ve grown to love, deep within me I feel like a homeless person.
I don’t know yet how many homeless people will be reported in our upcoming census. But I can already tell you that the number of homeless people in our country far exceeds any number those statistics will reveal. There are millions of homeless people like me. We may have roofs over our heads. We may have addresses where UPS can leave packages at the door. We may have ample closet space to store all of our earthly possessions. But we’re still homeless.
I thought a lot about that when I went to see a movie the day after Christmas called, Up in the Air, starring George Clooney. Everything his character needed he slipped into a roller suitcase that was small enough to stow in the overhead bin on an airplane. He had no connection to real people, but lived his whole life flying from place to place. Appropriately, it was his job to come into a large company and inform people that they had been fired. He represented millions of homeless people who will never be counted in a census. They’re not the people who are sleeping on the streets. They’re the spiritually homeless. They lug a longing for home with them everywhere they go. They may not always be able to name that longing, but it’s always there, tucked away in the overhead bin.
Saint Augustine understood this kind of homelessness when he said, “You have made us for yourself, Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” We spend a lot of time and energy in our lives trying to find our home, the place where our hearts can rest.
John's Christmas gospel tells us that “The Word became flesh and lived among us.” The word for lived is often translated dwelt. In the original language, it means literally to pitch a tent. God came and pitched a tent in our world. God became a human being, like us, and made his home in our world. And because God has made his home with us, we have a place where the heart can rest. We are always home.
If you're considering New Year’s resolutions, here's a suggestion. It’s really quite simple. But it can change your life on a deeply profound level. This year… spend more time at home.