The family tree of Jesus Christ, David’s son, Abraham’s son (Matt. 1:1, The Message).
We’re hearing plenty about home these days.
There’s something about Christmas that extols the idea of home. We hear songs about how there’s no place like home for the holidays; we hear the wistful pining of one promising to be home for Christmas.
Some of you know exactly what this is about. You have plans to go home for Christmas. You may be eager for that journey home, even if it’s a short one. You may be dreading it; that might explain why you ended up so far from home to begin with.
In the midst of a season that idealizes home and the holiday pilgrimage, it is interesting to see how Matthew leads us through the lengthy genealogy or “family tree” of Jesus by mentioning two people who are notable for the exact opposite: Abraham and Ruth.
The First Fourteen
If you’ll take time to read it (and many people don’t) you’ll notice that Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus falls neatly into three sets of fourteen generations: Abraham to David, David to the Babylonian exile, the exile to Jesus. The first fourteen generations are bracketed by two names. At one end stands Abraham and close to the other end stands Ruth. What they share in common is their obedient departure from the place they knew as home.
Abraham and his clan were well established in a place known as Ur. God showed up there abruptly, without warning, and uprooted this man from all that was familiar and safe. God came with command and promise, the most familiar forms of God’s word to us. The command: leave your home and go to a land that I will show you. The promise: I will make a great nation of you and your descendants. Abraham went. He packed up and left home and never went back.
Ruth was raised in the land of Moab. Her very name in the genealogy of Jesus should surprise us. Not being a Hebrew woman, she seems out of place here. But Ruth was the daughter-in-law of a Hebrew woman named Naomi. A famine in Judah had forced Naomi to live in Moab for a time. But after the death of her husband and sons, with an improved economy back in Judah, Naomi planned to return. Ruth insisted on going with her. Interestingly, Ruth’s new home will be in a place called Bethlehem.
Ruth left her home and went to a distant place to live among a people she didn’t know. There, far from home, Ruth married Boaz and became the great grandmother of David.
Finding Our True Home
It’s a good thing to go home for Christmas. But maybe being away from home is where we learn to truly trust God. Some of you may be away from home because life took you there. It wasn’t your plan. Others of you may be far from home because you couldn’t get away quick enough. Either way – what leaving home offers all of us is a chance to discover where our true home is. Home is living in the will of God, waking every day to follow wherever he might lead.
Once we find our true home in God, maybe we find that it’s easier to go “home” – back to the place and people who have shaped who we are. Having found our true home, we don’t expect “home” to be the perfect idealized place that Christmas songs celebrate. We don’t burden those closes to us with our expectations of perfection. We don’t impatiently roll our eyes at the struggles and flaws of those who share our blood.
And speaking of struggles and flaws, having found our true home we know all too well that we have been loved and accepted by a God who didn’t demand that we get ourselves together first. We come to know that home is a place where we practice showing to others the grace that we ourselves have received. Hopefully we discover that home is a place where we can find grace too. Our homes and families are a great gift. But they are not God. They were never meant to be.
So how will you go home? That not a question about whether you’ll drive or fly. It’s a way of asking if you can be in that place – even if it’s just across town, or even your own house – knowing that you belong to God. You won’t burden relatives with a need that only God can meet.
He is indeed our dwelling place throughout all generations (Psalm 90:1). Our true home.
We give you thanks, O God, for examples of men and women who have followed you at great cost. Help us to be like them, finding our true home in you, ready to go where you lead us. Bless our journeys home in this season. And bless us as we leave again to live as your people in this world, we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.