I am sitting today (Sunday, December 13th) in beautiful Santa Barbara, at the airport waiting for my plane. I am heading home from a family gathering in nearby Solvang. Whenever I go to Santa Barbara I go through a strange déjà vu, that “I have been here before” kind of experience. Maybe it is because I have been here before—for the first 13 years of my life! But it is eerily different to me now. People have moved away, died or I have lost touch with them.
The next 22 years of my life were spent in Hawaii. I go through similar feelings there. Like Santa Barbara, I love the beauty and do still have some friends there but it is no longer the same after spending the last 20 years in Redmond, Washington. The recurring feeling I have about all three of these places is that none of them are “home.” I don’t really belong in these places. I have lived in three different places but they are like stages where my life’s drama has played out and rapidly passed through.
Maybe this is what Neil Diamond was feeling when he wrote the lyrics for “I Am I Said,”
Well I'm New York City born and raised
But nowadays, I'm lost between two shores
L.A.'s fine, but it ain't home
New York's home, but it ain't mine no more
It is a feeling of “home”lessness. Not physical homelessness but an emotional/spiritual phenomena of not having a “place” that feels like home. As I continue to contemplate the coming of Christ into the world, I am drawn to Him, this God-Man, who experienced the same thing but much more extreme.
You would think that he would have been at home in Bethlehem. This was prophetically the birthplace of the Messiah, a “suburb” of Jerusalem. But Herod tried to kill him. He didn’t belong there. His parents took him to Egypt having been warned in a dream. Egypt could never be a permanent home as he was destined to be the deliverer of the Jews in Israel. Raised in Nazareth, surely this would have been “home.” It was close but whispers of his mother’s pregnancy out of wedlock made him always feel as if he didn’t belong. Later, during his three and a half years of ministry, he said that “Foxes have holes and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” (Matthew 8:20)
Capernaum was close to being a “home” for him, but it was not his home. He even grieved that Capernaum would be judged ever more harshly than Sodom and Gomorrah because they had seen greater "light" (Jesus) and had rejected it (Him). Then Jerusalem, the place that He will one day reign, was the very city that rejected Him and condemned Him to the cross.
I know He was gloriously raised from the grave, proving His deity and He will come again in great glory. Also it is an amazing comfort that He is truly “home” at the Father’s right hand and that He is preparing a lasting “home” for all who love Him right now.
But I don’t want to skip over the significance of His suffering humanness and “home”lessness. In the past when I have felt that “ache” of not belonging anywhere in particular I have brushed it off too quickly. “You have no right to feel this pain, what about those who are actually homeless, or destitute.” It doesn’t drive me to Christ but into denial of the pain, to minimize the pain or to even feel guilty for feeling pain.
But we were created to belong. Jesus entered this world with that same human longing and He felt from birth the pain of being “home”less, of not belonging. That makes Him able to deeply empathize with my weaknesses. That makes Him a God who truly understands and whom I can go to with this pain. This makes me love Him all the more, that the Creator God was willing to suffer this weakness, this indignity, to become my Savior God.
That makes Him “Immanuel” (God with us), a God who is with us through the pain of our journey here and now, on our way to be at “home” with Him forever, there and then.
Rejoicing in my heavenly “home,”
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