Christmas is often a time to be nostalgic, to come back home and enjoy the memories and relive traditions that make that place the very nature of home: comfortable and established.
For the last three Christmases, I trekked from one side of the globe to the other one that was home. I spent 38 hours cramping and uncramping on airplanes, then pawing through duty free counters in airport lounges to complete my Christmas shopping. All this just to be home for the holidays. I was a walking Bing Crosby song. The feeling of pathetic homesickness would start as soon as I stepped off the first flight (of four) at the Johannesburg airport, where the sight of English signage decked in lights and littered with brightly beaded ornaments gave me comfort and cheer. I remember two Christmases ago choking back tears at the Montreal airport when a Canada customs officer neatly closed my passport, looked me in the eye and said warmly, “Welcome home miss.”
But it strikes me that while today we take heart in the dead of winter from going home, it is very unlike the first Christmas. Each January, I’d do the trip in reverse, each leg putting more miles between home and me. It was this return journey to an unknown, distant country that was more in solidarity with Mary and Joseph. I’d inevitably arrive at a place that I had been brought to for a purpose and pleasure not well understood at the time. Then, the place terrified me by its difference and distance from home. I can put myself in the shoes of a very pregnant Mary, looking at a long and uncomfortable journey to a place that is not home, where those familiar and friendly to her will not be and where the lovelight will not likely be gleaming. More than anything, there’s just no knowing what crazy thing is to come next.
Jesus is many things, including consistent. Even at his birth, there was ‘no hole or nest in which to lay his head.’ He came to Bethlehem, as predicted, but he turned even that expectation upside down – arriving not at some ostentatious palace as might befit, but at a dark, confusing and unfamiliar hovel.
Now, as then, we as a church mark the arrival of the King in uncertain territory. Advent is a time of expectant waiting – a pregnant pause from the ordinary, if you’ll pardon the pun. Knowing not what is ahead, but that we are called to move forward, we take heart in the example of Mary, who faced with walking into the unfamiliar territory of motherhood, of her physical surroundings, of the expectations of those around her, walked faithfully into the dimly lit path set before her.
- Kiki Tegelberg
Scriptures to meditate on this week: Matthew 8:20 & Luke 1:26-38