From St Christopher's December newsletter:
"My heart is ever restless, until it finds its rest in you." St. Augustine
I sat in with some of our youth and their fearless leaders the other night on youth movie night. They had picked out the movie together: The Lion King. Great movie. But hadn't they seen it? I wondered to myself. As it turns out, mine was a fool's question. Of course they had seen it - they knew every word, every song, by heart. That's why they wanted to see it together.
Starbucks has borrowed the church's motto this winter: take comfort in rituals. I suppose the kind of comfort that Starbucks commends is also found in a film that is so familiar it feels like coming home with friends.
Of course, that so many of us will be "coming home for the holidays" suggests that we aren't always at home on our other days. We're scattered. Not just by our busyness, but by the plain geography of things: one brother lives in Nashville, another in San Marcos; more family live in Dallas, Cleveland, Boston, Berkeley (CA), and Gonzales. That Texans are accustomed to driving long hours to stay connected helps a little, but the fact remains that staying connected does require our driving long hours - because we're miles away from home, if we can name a home at all.
I've been told that a town has "made it" when it has its own Starbucks, or Home Depot, or whatever else the standard might be. When in a strange place, we no longer ask where the "good restaurants are". Rather, we ask where this or that chain restaurant is. Because we're always strangers, we use these commercial clues to feel at home - to build a familiar history, a common language, in a land where intimacy must sometimes be imagined.
Truth in advertising: I'm writing this from Starbucks this morning. I like my familiar, unfamiliar places. Still, I know that at least part of the comfort is imagined: visiting a Starbucks in Victoria is a new experience that only feels familiar because of the corporation's culture. While it may feel cozy, the place and the people are strangers to me.
It should be said that some of us are lucky enough to truly know a place. You've grown up there. Maybe your family goes back for a generation or more. You know the nooks and crannies and feel at home because you know the people - and you are known to them. The knowing makes all the difference.
It is the same with Jesus, I think. We people called church are scattered and busy and not always in places or stations of life we would have chosen for ourselves. We engage in more busyness, trying to make home out of things that feel familiar - even when they're not. The days that lead up to Christmas are especially vulnerable to this. But the ones who truly feel at home are home because where Christ is, home is. They are at home because they know Jesus. The knowing makes all the difference.
That knowing Jesus makes a difference may sound daunting or super-spiritual, but it shouldn't. Knowing can be as simple as keeping a family commitment to bless your food together before the meals you share. Knowing can be as simple as telling Christ's story alongside your own holiday remembrances in weeks ahead. Knowing can be as straightforward as beginning each day with a "thank you" and ending each day with "I love you," and, where called for, "I'm sorry" - a prayer life not more complicated than the honesty of your heart.
The great image of Scripture is of Jesus standing at the door of my heart - "Behold, I stand at the door and knock" - and the miracle of this image is that the stranger who stands at the door would enter the patchwork world that I call my home - and make it his own. What wonderful, Good News!
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