Thursday, December 15, 2011

Home for Christmas

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Mom died 10 years ago.

Can it be that long? I still hear her voice, smell her perfume, smile at her throaty laugh. Surely we talked just the other day.

I would give almost anything to talk to her again.

“Don’t forget to call your momma; I wish I could call mine,” counseled the late, great Southern writer and humorist Lewis Grizzard when his mother was long gone. I never understood the ache behind those words until I couldn’t call Mom anymore.

Home is what I’m talking about. Rick Bragg, another Southern writer, put it this way: “You wake up in your momma’s house and you smell the best bacon you’ve ever had. But more than anything you hear her footsteps. You hear her moving around. And you know that everything’s all right … as long as you can hear that sound.”

At Christmas, thoughts turn homeward, even if the home you once knew no longer exists. It lives on in a place beyond time.

“Christmas Eve will find me where the love light beams,” goes the song. “I’ll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams.”

Home. Even folks who never had a happy one long for it. No matter how far we may have wandered, we search for home like the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32).

How amazing, then, that Jesus left His home at Christmas, quietly entering this dark world. While we search for home, He searches for us.

Missionaries — or anyone who leaves the comforts of home and crosses cultures to seek wandering souls — follow in His footsteps. They give up the light and warmth of the familiar to share something eternal with those in search of God. They leave home to remind people where they came from.

“Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting,” William Wordsworth wrote. “The soul that rises with us, our life’s star, hath had elsewhere its setting, and cometh from afar: not in entire forgetfulness, and not in utter nakedness, but trailing clouds of glory do we come from God, who is our home. …”

In recent years, the impact of ongoing violence, political turmoil and family breakdown has driven many young people in India’s Kashmir region to drugs in any form they can find them: over-the-counter medicines, glue, pills — or for the wealthier, LSD or heroin. More than a third of Kashmiris ages 15 to 35 have become drug addicts, according to unofficial estimates. But a few Muslim-background followers of Christ are reminding them of what they really need.

“I used to drink bottles of codeine every night in order to go to sleep,” said a tall, clean-shaven student in the traditional woolen cloak worn to beat back Kashmiri winters. “I was causing so much pain to my family and living the life of an addict, until I found Christ and was taken in by a group of believers.”

In East Asia, a team of believers traveled five hours on a winding, rocky road before reaching a village overshadowed by a huge monastery. They met a shop owner and one of the team members began sharing Christ with her. She looked stunned as she said, “You are in a village of monks. We are all Buddhists.”

The Christian smiled and said, “We know. That is why we came.” He introduced another team member who had lived as a Buddhist monk in a monastery for 18 years. The former monk said, “I prayed, chanted and meditated for hours every single day, but I did not have peace.” Then he asked the shop owner, “Do you have peace?”

Elsewhere in Asia, a man filled with resentment and hatred over past hurts prepared to buy a gun on the black market to murder his father and stepmother. His sister — unaware of his plan — invited him for a visit. He was amazed to observe how his sister had changed since she had accepted Christ a few years earlier. He abandoned his plan for vengeance, embraced Christ and was baptized.

Soon after, he received a call from his father, who was seriously ill. The new believer forgave his father, told him about Jesus and prayed for him. He used the money he had saved for a gun to help pay for his father’s medical treatment. His father recovered and now attends a church, seeking to learn the ways of God.

Our true home is with God, and Christ is the way to get there. Let’s go home for Christmas.


Gay Holloway said...

Thank you Erich.
Gay Holloway

Sandy G, in South Asia said...

When I was growing up, we moved a lot. Happily, there was mostly comfort and stability in being wherever Mom and Dad were. That was home. I could even sleep comfortably in the back window of the car (we didn’t yet realize the importance of seat belts, and I was very small) on those long cross-country moves with Dad driving. There was excitement more than anxiety as long as Mom and Dad were close.

As I got older, I made my own home. I arranged my own things, my own friends, my own routines. Then, whenever I had to leave, it WAS uncomfortable, and I would hurriedly try to rearrange things all over again. How different a move as an adult is from the moves of my childhood.

Part of entering the kingdom of God as a child is being comfortable and at home in all situations, as long as we can take hold of the outstretched hand of God.

May we all go home for Christmas, indeed. Thanks, Erich, for all your thoughtful blogs in 2011. It's been good to know that I wasn't the only one who choked when I checked my retirement account, to be reminded that God works in big and small things, to be taken back to the words of Thomas Merton, and to always be reminded of the big view. I look forward to following your blog in 2012.