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Beloveds,

We are entering one of the holiest seasons of the church year — Advent, the four weeks that lead us to the celebration of the Incarnation of God-with-Us. There is something about the darkness this time of year that adds a poignant sense of longing and an ache for connection. Advent music is particularly haunting and evocative. I encourage you to dwell in Advent and not rush to the bells and jubilation of Christmas too quickly.

Advent creates space for us to prepare, wonder, imagine, hope and touch on the tender spots of our lives that sting a bit this time of year. Our theme for Advent is Close to Home. It calls to mind multiple images: things hitting “close to home,” homesickness, homemaking, heading home, moving, sanctuary, buildings and foundations. We will explore many of these themes in the next weeks.

Many years ago, when our son was at camp and homesick, he called his Grandpa Keith. Grandpa Keith knew just the right things to say. First, that being homesick was a good thing because it meant he came from a loving home. Then he told Sam that he himself was 18 years old the first time he left home, and he missed his mom so much his body hurt. It was balm to the ears of a 7-year-old boy and he ended up liking camp so well that he went back summer after summer.

As a child, we moved many times with my dad’s job. Every few years we were the new kids in school. I still struggle with scenes in TV shows and movies that show the new student standing in the cafeteria wondering where and with whom to eat lunch. Ouch. It was a rich childhood, peppered with moments of loneliness and longing until we found ourselves feeling at home again. For me, “back home” is wherever my parents are, regardless of address.

Another image that comes to mind was the day after my dad’s death. My cousin appeared at my parents’ home with a basket of supportive items. She had only recently lost her 30-year-old son. She hugged my mom and said, “This is not our home.” To her, death is going home to where we belong.

She is right. AND the incarnation graces the earthly part of our “being at home” as well. Our time on earth, loving and being loved, is central to who we are as God’s creations. Perhaps the longing we feel at Advent is for the affirmation that we belong in both places, each in their due season. The coming of the Christ Child grounds us here for this time, as complicated and messy as earthly life, home, family and work can be. Jesus lived the fullness of it — blessing it on our behalf. And equipping us for the fullest possible experience of being human.

The fullest human experience includes feeling at home and feeling homesick, belonging and loneliness, love and longing, plenty and want, joy and sorrow. Advent invites us to plumb the depths of the human range of being as we make our tender way toward the day of the incarnation, day that blesses the fullness of creation — in and around us.

God’s peace and deep joy of this season sustain and uphold you.

Pastor Chris