The lambs are in a hurry. Their little internal lamb clocks and compasses know exactly what time it is and where they're happily headed: home. Shepherd Ed, who is outside the camera's view, is offering a feast of grain and fragrant, green hay that will fill their bellies and prepare them for the long winter's night ahead, spent in the security of their sheepfold.
For many of us, Christmas stirs up a range of emotions. Our own internal time clocks and compasses know where we're being called and why. The challenge is that our wills often lead us to wonder or wander, no longer sure "home" is all it's cracked up to be—or what it used to be. We may be estranged from family, our "baggage" may be too heavy to make the trip, or grief may have left a hole in our heart that swallows the hope of a merry Christmas. And so we leave the folksy, cozy lore of coming home for Christmas to those who feel a little less weary, jaded, sad, or lonely than we do.
The thing is, there's more than one way to come home for Christmas. We can get stuck in the rut of thinking that "home" is an idyllic, bricks-and-mortar destination where the porch light is always left on. Maybe for some, it is. But it's so much more and "other" than that...
It's also a palace in a kingdom where Jesus has promised to prepare a place for us according to his time and divine will:
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” (John 14: 1-4)
Scripture couldn’t be more clear: “God is our eternal home."(Phil. 3:20) And yet, the Lord, in his profound goodness, offers us a taste of eternity and its sweetness while we're still here on earth. We can supernaturally experience our place of favor in our Father's house whenever we immerse ourselves in the sweetness of his Word and enter his courts with praise and thanksgiving. This too, is home.
It is also written, "But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you." (Matthew 6:6) That inner room? It's nestled in the human heart. It's where the Holy Spirit dwells with us and in us. It’s where true friendship with God is formed. This too, is home.
In still another way, our earthly worship allows us a foretaste of heaven and a spirit of oneness with Christ through our shared faith. There is Christmas family to be found in church portals and pews and around the tables where people of God gather with one accord to feast on the Word, to fellowship with "glad and sincere hearts" (Acts 2: 42-27) and to sing timeless carols of wonder, thanks, and praise. This too, is home.
And if you're by chance or by choice a prodigal daughter or son (spiritually or literally), starving for love and out of options, Jesus assures us that peace and reconciliation begin with the brave and humble decision to "set out and go back."(Luke 15:18) In the spirit of Christmas, trust that there's someone in your family whose eyes are searching the horizon, waiting with a compassionate heart for you to come home.
After all, that's the heart of Christmas, isn't it? God, in His tender compassion, through the Virgin Mary, gave us Himself in the holy infant, Jesus—born in a manger to save us from our sins and restore our hope of heaven.
The Feast of the Nativity of the Lord draws near. Like our little lambs running toward their shepherd, there's a place of refreshment, peace, and security that has been prepared for you and for me. Be it at the family table, in a pew, in your inner room, or at the King's palace, our compassionate God is waiting with open arms.
Wherever you are...come home for Christmas.