Sometimes in a church service, a word or a phrase insists on being noticed. It jumps off the page, and hits you right between the eyes, point-blank. It wants to say something and it wants you to hear.
Now, as you may have realised by now, I’m not into signs and wonders in a big way, but I will admit to there being ‘more things in heaven and earth, than are dreamt of in your philosophy,’ as Hamlet said to Horatio. (Thanks Shakespeare). If you translate into everyday language, I think old Hamlet is more or less saying – if you didn’t believe it before, believe it now because it’s right in front of your eyes. In his case it was a ghost. In my case, not a ghost, but a sense of the spiritual at work. Call me a double-dealer if you like, but despite fulminating at all things fundamental, I have a real hunger for something more.
Last Sunday was the first Sunday of Advent and in ‘normal’ times, our congregation gathers together to light the first Advent candle. I still feel as ridiculously excited about this as a kid blowing out six candles on her cake, bereft as I was in my early years of any real ritual or ceremony. And words are spoken over it to explain that it stands for the patriarchs – Abraham and Sarah and all who followed them, culminating in the birth of Jesus ‘who came to make his home among us.’
There it is. Home.
Now I have a longing for home. A yearning to be there. All my life I have been trying to get home. All my life I have been reaching for that resolution, that sense of belonging, that feeling of arriving. Like the finality of the falling of a cadence, the tierce de Picardie that moves the minor to the major, the closing ‘Amen’. That split second of connection when it’s all there is, that spark of sheer life, that pinpoint of existence, that single critical breath.
It’s being held, being protected, all needs met, eyes locked, life.
I still have that longing for home. That driving need to be there. How do you describe the indescribable – how do you voice a yearning for home which is so deep that you are impelled, all through life to search and search? I always knew at a profound level that my search gave me air in my lungs and reason to take another breath and yet, in my early days could neither begin to articulate nor explain my dilemma.
I create home in many different ways. A cosy, welcoming space. A sense of safety. Textures, colours, soft furnishings, pictures, candles, light and warmth. A mug of tea, a sofa, a good book.
And home can be created in other places. My church. Immersion in the singing, the liturgy, the ritual, the comforting cycle of the church year. Or in another person. A soft warm body. Open arms.
The certainty of love.
And I think that’s the home that Jesus came to make among us. He wouldn’t have been into soft furnishings and pine storage units. There was no Ikea just down the road (although being a carpenter, he may have had more luck than me with assembling a Billy bookcase). He wanted to make a home in our hearts where he could always live and never leave us.
So it’s becoming clearer. Home isn’t so hard to find. It’s there for the taking. ‘Come’ says Jesus. And maybe that ‘Come’, that invitation, extends both ways. Jesus invites me. I invite back. Faith isn’t about believing by rote. It’s not about how much you understand of the Bible or how many believers you bring to Christ. Faith is about yearning. It’s about recognising the longing for home and reaching out to be taken up, to be welcomed and held tightly and gathered in.
It's not as elusive as I thought. And this Advent, I’m holding on to home. And onto the Saviour who came to make his home amongst us.