I love the idea of home. What gets me through a long or stressful day is the thought of going back home. I would describe a perfect day as a day spent at home -- no plans, no agenda, just being home. Home being the little space I live in with my family in Delhi, this city I call home as well.
Home is home not because of the physical space but because I can just be. I belong, I have freedom, I don’t have to perform, I am accepted and so many other things I can’t put into words here. Delhi is home because it’s so familiar, I know how to get around, I know the culture, the language, I know the best shortcuts, the best bargains, I mostly know what to expect and how to react to situations which can seem so strange to those visiting or new to the city. When I walk the streets of Delhi, I feel at home. When I land at the airport after a trip out, I instantly feel at home.
But I also know how fleeting this idea of home can be. These warm feelings disappear when home is a place of strained relationships where you have to deal with unsettled issues, of endless explanations and irritations that come with sharing space with others, of busyness that doesn’t seem to stop and endless little chores that need to get done, of battling loneliness and unmet expectations. I can remember times when things were tough at home and I used every excuse I could find to be away.
With the increase of people relocating to different parts of the country and the world and millions fleeing their countries, it is getting harder to feel at home. My brief stint away from my city was filled with moments of extreme homesickness. I would walk down streets without the noise of incessant honking, without having to navigate through a zillion bodies, crossing only at the traffic lights and all things operating in an organised and ordered manner. And even though I loved the structure, the new experiences and relationships, the lingering impression remained that I wasn’t home and I didn’t really belong.
Right now, even Delhi doesn’t feel much like home. I got back after a lovely holiday to a city drenched in smog and at the worst pollution levels ever. The chaos of demonetisation has taken over the city and something as simple as going to the bank or withdrawing money from an ATM is a veritable battlefield of queues, queue cutters, disappointment, helplessness and despair. It does really feel like life has come to a standstill and everything that was familiar is somehow different.
All this points to how precious feeling at home is and how despairing the feeling of homelessness can be. To be able to feel completely at home anywhere – a relationship, a friend circle, a class, a small group, a church, a family, a city, a country -- is to feel like you belong, that you are accepted, you know the big picture and the small inside details, that you are free to be who you truly are and that you matter and what you bring to the table matters.
Christmas is a reminder that because of the incarnation, we can find “the home behind home for which we are all homesick”. Christmas is a reminder that Jesus left His home so that we can find ours. We can have an eternal sense of home because Jesus, not counting equality with God a thing to be grasped, emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:6-8).
Because Jesus left His Father’s home, we have access to an intimacy with God which can fill our hearts with the truest sense of home -- acceptance, belonging, freedom, knowing, being who we are truly meant to be, knowing that we matter and what we bring to the table matters. Even in the tough home situations that we may find ourselves in now, we have a deeper sense of home that we can draw on. Even in the greatest feeling of being home that we enjoy now, we have a deeper sense of home that will never be taken from us.
G. K. Chesterton expresses this beautifully in his poem “The House of Christmas” which is one of my favourite poems, and one I read multiple times during the Christmas season. It beautifully describes the enormous significance of that first Christmas in making it possible for us to be truly home.
A child in a foul stable,
Where the beasts feed and foam;
Only where He was homeless
Are you and I at home;
We have hands that fashion and heads that know,
But our hearts we lost---how long ago!
In a place no chart nor ship can show
Under the sky's dome.
This world is wild as an old wife's tale,
And strange the plain things are,
The earth is enough and the air is enough
For our wonder and our war;
But our rest is as far as the fire-drake swings
And our peace is put in impossible things
Where clashed and thundered unthinkable wings
Round an incredible star.
To an open house in the evening
Home shall all men come,
To an older place than Eden
And a taller town than Rome.
To the end of the way of the wandering star,
To the things that cannot be and that are,
To the place where God was homeless
And all men are at home.
May this Christmas season be filled with the warmth of the true home we have in our Saviour!
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