John 14:2-3 – In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. (NIV)
We all want to be home with our families for Christmas. In 1979, I wished I were home in Taiwan, but it was too distant and costly. I was in my second year as a visa student at the University of Toronto, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and while all of the other students in my residence at East House in Knox College had gone home, I was left alone. I did receive an invitation to a friend's house for Christmas dinner, but I chose to be alone that year, for I was a bit overwhelmed with grief over the loss of my mother earlier that year to celebrate with others. As Christmas Eve arrived, I began looking for a fine restaurant for my solo celebration dinner. But what do you know? Nowhere was open except McDonald's in nearby uptown Toronto!
Strangely enough, the hamburger didn't taste as good as it normally did, and the Christmas carols over McDonald's speakers didn't sound as joyous as they were meant to be. I had never realized until that moment what loneliness was about and what that feeling did to a person. The more I stayed, the lonelier I became. Then soon, tears were streaming down my cheeks as I yearned for home. "That's it," I told myself. "This is no way to spend my Christmas Eve. I want to go out and look for anybody I can find to celebrate with." So I wrapped up the unfinished Big Mac, threw it in the garbage can, walked out of the door, and landed on Yonge Street.
I looked at my watch, and it was around 6:00 p.m. What really surprised me was how this busiest street in town suddenly had become so empty and quiet. There was neither a single soul walking nor a single taxi running, and not even a bum wandering around. Only when I strolled further to Dundas Street did I find one, a homeless man, who was half-drunk, sitting and sleeping on the sidewalk. So I woke him up and told him, "Merry Christmas, man! Wake up and let's celebrate Christmas at my place." "Who are you? Santa Claus of some sort?" he asked. "Ho, ho, ho!" I said. "It doesn't matter who I am. Just come with me — my treat." He mustered himself up and walked with me. I took him to Chinatown, and luckily, there were some stores still open. I bought a lot of food and drink, enough for the two of us to celebrate Christmas. That night, two lonely people spent Christmas together, and it turned out to be one of the most joyous Christmas Eves I've ever had.
What is it that causes us to yearn for home during Christmas? Tradition? Maybe. For sure, many of our best memories are built around being home at Christmas, and it does give us a sense of belonging and happiness with our family. But there is something more than this. It has to do with a deeper sense of "home" that we feel at Christmastime. Christmas is built around the story of a man and woman who had a Child away from home. The Child was even more away from "home" than His parents, because He had left His heavenly home to be born in a mere stable in Bethlehem. Later, for safety, they became refugees in Egypt.
God purposely sent Jesus to earth to experience a homeless and refugee life. Why? Because He wanted all of the homeless people and refugees in the world to know that He, too, had been there and done that. He came all the way from heaven to make such a statement in order to bring hope to the poor people in the world. Such is the good news of Christmas that people who have no home can have a home in His kingdom.
In today's Scripture, He told us, "In my Father's house are many rooms … I go to prepare a place for you … that where I am you may also be." (John 14:2-3 RSV) We are not going to stay here forever, and He has prepared a home for us in heaven after we die. All we need to do is to take Him as our Lord and Saviour. God intends for the people of the world to yearn for their eternal home, and "home for Christmas" to me is but a rehearsal here on earth of such a belief.
Prayer: Dear God, You are so great and humble that You sent Your Son, Jesus our Lord, to be born in a lowly manger rather than in an elegant palace. Then You announced such news of great joy by the angels to the poor shepherds first, in hope that the poor, the homeless, and the refugees would be able to yearn for home in Your kingdom through their faith in Christ. Hallelujah! We praise You and thank You for the great hope You bring to us in the birth of Christ. Amen.
Listen to this devotional