“Are you going home for Christmas?”
It was December 2003. The commonly asked question for this time of year hung in the air, unanswered. For most people, especially a 28-year-old like me, a simple yes or no response was all it required.
But it wasn’t an easy question for me. And I had no simple answer to give.
There was no chance that I would visit my childhood home in the country for Christmas. Strangers now lived in the house where I had spent my growing up years.
My mom was gone, passed away in 1996. My dad had remarried and I didn’t think of his new house – a house I’d never lived in – as my home.
And despite being married five years myself, I still didn’t think of my little house with my husband and two toddlers as “home”. We’d lived in our house for 18 months and I still didn’t feel settled.
So…where was my home?
If I could have chosen a place to go home to that Christmas – or at any other time I wanted to escape to a safe place with warm memories – it would have been to the house in the country. The house where I had lived with my parents and older brother as a child and teenager.
I remember setting up the Christmas tree with colour-coded branches in our living room, a 70s themed living room complete with green shag carpet. My dog actually peed in that carpet several times.
The stockings my mom made were hung by the fireplace in the basement, on sturdy wire hooks my dad had fashioned himself. I knew that Christmas Eve supper would always be the same – mom’s homemade zweibach and pluma moos.
Then after supper, down to the basement we’d go to open our stockings beside the warm fire and the pathetic-looking Charlie Brown Christmas tree, decorated with ornaments my brother and I had made as kids and silver strands of tinsel.
We never had a fancy or extravagant Christmas, but I loved our family’s traditions. And I loved my home in the country.
The house where so much of ME was born. The house that held so many happy, healthy memories of my mom and the simpler times of my childhood.
The holidays were hard enough without my mom. Having people ask, “Are you going home for Christmas?” was gut-wrenching for me back in 2003.
It took me several years to realize that the longing I felt to travel back to my childhood home was not helping me get through the Christmas holidays.
Plus, I had my own house and my own family. So why couldn’t I simply say, “I’m already home”?
Fifteen Christmases have passed since then. I still cringe when people ask me, “Are you ready for Christmas? What are your plans?” But I’ve come to peace with the question, “Are you going home?”
#1. This earth is not our permanent home.
This last year, I’ve taken note of words like foreigner, traveller, sojourner, pilgrim, and alien as I’ve read my Bible.
“You, as foreigners and exiles…” 1 Peter 2:11-12
Ephesians 2:19 refers to us as foreigners and strangers who are citizens and members of God’s family.
The Bible reminds us several times that we are merely travellers, passing through our time on this planet.
“…You do not belong to the world…” John 15:18
Every single human being, 100% of us, will die one day. Those of us who’ve accepted Jesus’ death for our sins will continue on to our eternal home in heaven. Hallelujah!
2. We’re on a difficult journey.
“Blessed are those…whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.” Psalm 84:5
Christians are on a pilgrimage to heaven.
Dictionary .com defines “pilgrimage” as a journey, especially a long one, made to some sacred place as an act of religious devotion. A pilgrimage, unfortunately, is the opposite of a guided wine tour through the wonderfully rich cultures and heritage of Europe.
With that definition in mind, it’s easy to see that pilgrimage is the perfect word for Christians. Our lives on earth are one long, often difficult, journey that will end when we arrive at our final destination: heaven.
The Bible has never promised us an easy life here on earth. Sometimes I wonder why we expect anything else.
“In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
And why else would the Bible continually tell us to “fear not” or “take heart”?
The Bible reminds us over 120 times that “…it shall come to pass.”
Our life on earth has heartache. We all experience different kinds of pain. Every one of us knows this firsthand.
Let’s choose to not be surprised by this anymore but instead, accept it as a part of living on earth.
#3. God has prepared a place for us in heaven.
“But our citizenship is in heaven,” Philippians 3:20a
What a destination we are travelling towards! The glory of heaven will far outshine our best day here on this earth.
A few more verses that talk about the hope we have in heaven:
“For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.” Hebrews 13:14
“My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?” John 14:2
“…We have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.” 2 Corinthians 5:1
Do you spend time thinking about what heaven will look like? I try not to.
I hesitate to create an image in my mind because I know I won’t ever be able to do it justice. But I do know that heaven will be the ultimate safe place where I’ll experience perfect peace like I’ve never experienced before.
The purpose of our time on earth is to prepare us for heaven. God gave us Jesus as an example of what a heavenly-qualified person looks like.
Although human, Jesus was not at home here on this earth. In the gospels, Jesus said, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head.”
He was despised and rejected by men while here I am, a sinful, shortsighted human, looking to find comfort and happiness on this earth.
If I have no place to lay my head, it’s because this world is not my true home.
It took me years to learn that God wants me to be heavenly-home-focused rather than worldly-home-focused. And I’m still not perfect at maintaining an eternal perspective.
I still feel sad when I think about my childhood home. I have a hard time not wishing to go back to that simpler time. But I’m also grateful for the good childhood memories I’m blessed to have. I know that everyone has the pleasant memories like I do.
I still miss my mom and I wish I could celebrate Christmas with her. But I’m able to think about the heavenly home she’s already living in. The same glorious home where Jesus has prepared a room for me. The home where I’ll spend eternity after I die. And compared to eternity, our lives here on earth will be a fraction of a drop in a ten gallon bucket.
Are you feeling “homeless” this Christmas? Do you feel like you have no safe place to escape to? Do you miss the safety and comfort your mother used to provide for you?
I hope and pray that you have assurance that you’re going to heaven. And if not, take time this Christmas to be sure that you’re prepared to die.
50% of us may get cancer. But 100% of us are going to die.
Are you ready to go home?