Trying to Get Home for Christmas

The family tree of Jesus Christ, David’s son, Abraham’s son (Matt. 1:1, The Message).

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. We see commercials where the distant family member surprises the gathered clan on Christmas Day with an unannounced arrival home.

The yearning for home is an echo of Advent in the human soul. 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. For others of you, going home isn’t quite so simple. You may be dreading it. That might explain why you ended up so far from home to begin with.

This year, getting home for Christmas isn’t very simple for anyone. Going home may not be possible; if it’s possible, it may not be wise. Just last week so many people experienced smaller gatherings for Thanksgiving. The same will likely be true for Christmas. The expected someone will not be able to come home. The traditional trip home will not happen.

All of this raises some basic questions about the meaning of home. What is it and where do we find it?

In the midst of a season that idealizes home and the holiday pilgrimage, it is interesting to see that Matthew begins the story of Jesus by mentioning two people who are notable for the exact opposite. They left home – left and never went back: Abraham and Ruth.

The First Fourteen

Matthew’s two minute and twenty-six second 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 was an 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 in Abraham’s life abruptly, without warning. 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. Trusting the promise, Abraham 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, a misfit in the lineage connecting Jesus with Abraham and David. But Ruth was the daughter-in-law of Hebrew woman named Naomi. Naomi had been forced to live in Moab for a time but when the death of her husband and sons forced her back to Judah Ruth insisted on going with her. Ruth left home and went to a distant place among a people she didn’t know. There, far from home, Ruth married Boaz and became the great grandmother of David.

Presence More than Place

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 God might lead.

Home isn’t always identified by a street address and zip code. For those who know the yearning of Advent, home is more of a presence than a place. Once we find our true home in God, maybe we find that it’s easier to go “home” – to the house and to the people who make up our own lineage.  

We don’t expect “home” to be the perfect idealized place that Christmas songs celebrate.

We can make peace with the truth that our families are not perfect.

We can acknowledge that the roof under which we grew up was a place of both blessing and brokenness.

We come to know that home is a place where we learn to show grace. Hopefully, it’s a place where we can find grace too. But the home of sentimental songs and stories isn’t our God. And after all – God is really what we want at this time of the year. God is what we search for all year long.

Where will ‘home’ be for you this Christmas?


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 – whether a great distance or just across town. Be present with us as you were with Abraham and Ruth, that we might find grace in our coming and going, at Christmas and always, we pray in Jesus’s name. Amen.   

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