One year after my Dad started his steep decline into dementia, Mom is now repeating what he used to say, almost word for word. “Where am I? I want to go home. This isn’t my home.” Early this morning, the maintenance guys at her complex called me. They found Mom scratching “anyone ever home?” on her car window*. (*Don’t worry. We hold the keys to her car.)
The longing for home is innate within all of us. Our search for home can take our whole lives. This season of Christmas tends to intensify that longing, leaving many of us feeling empty. Whatever “home” is, we realize we don’t have it.
What is that we long for? And why does the holiday season awaken those often-suppressed yearnings, perhaps bringing comforting nostalgia to some, but often deep sadness to others?
When I think of home, I picture a cozy scene, a Hallmark moment, with loving, laughing people (and often a pet) gathered in front of a fireplace. Although feel-good scenes like that were not common my whole life, I’m fortunate to have enough warm memories to recall when I want to picture my happy place.
Home brings a feeling of love, intimacy, security. A place where we are known and understood and valued. Somewhere we can relax our guard and be ourselves, without judgment or censure.
It also conveys a sense of permanence. I belong here and I’ll always belong with these people, in this community. They are part of me and I am part of them and nothing can change that.
So how do we get there? How do we find our way to a home like that?
Dad, before we placed him in his long-term care home, would often ask, “Can you take me home now?” He asked this whether he was in the ER or in the apartment he’d shared with my Mom for more than ten years. In the hospital, my answer came easy. I’d tell him the staff were preparing a better place for him.
My words echoed in my mind. Preparing a better place? I wasn’t the first one to say that.
I’d tell Dad, “Here’s the best news: Jesus is preparing the BEST place ever for you.”
My father didn’t know the way to the bathroom or what state or decade he was in. But I assured him, when the time comes, he will know the way to that best place. He’ll find his way home. And the sweetest, strongest hand will be offered to lead him home.
Isn’t that what Christmas is all about? Jesus came to earth as a baby to make a new home here, with us, to dwell among us, to dwell in our hearts if we believe. He lived a short, sinless life; he lived to die. And now? Now he is preparing a home for us in heaven, where we will dwell with him forever.
One of the last things Jesus said to his disciples is recorded in John 14:1-6:
“Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way where I am going.”
Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going, how do we know the way?”
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me.”
This Christmas season, I’m reminded that Jesus left his forever home, with God in heaven, to come to earth so that we might find our way home. Immanuel. God with us.