“Did you go home for Christmas?” That’s a question you’re likely to hear these days. “Were you at home for the holidays?” “Did the kids come home for Christmas?” It’s a common theme at this time of year. We naturally associate the holiday season with “coming home.” Retailers pick up on the theme, offering us images of families gathered before the fireplace or around the Christmas tree. “I’ll be home for Christmas” plays over the loudspeaker in the grocery store. The idea of being “home” for the holidays appeals to many of us.
But what does “home” mean, really? Is it a place we can return to, or is it more of a longing? For many of us, the word “home” summons up a whole range of things that are past and that cannot be retrieved. The house we grew up in belongs to someone else. Our parents may have divorced – or died. Our siblings may be scattered across the country. The neighbors we once knew have drifted away. For us, “home” isn’t a specific place anymore; it’s more like a whole set of longings… or a collection of special people… or a treasure chest of memories that combine to make us feel safe and loved.
Many of us love the idea of “coming home.” But for others of us, perhaps, “home” was never that fine a place to begin with. Home was the place where mom and dad argued all the time until they finally split up, or where unkind and even abusive words were spoken. For us, “home” wasn’t a place where we felt safe or loved. We’ve had to find our “home” elsewhere – with different people and in different surroundings.
“The Son of Man was revealed….” In my prayer on the scriptures appointed for today, this snippet from the 1st letter of John is what jumped off the page at me. “The Son of Man was revealed.” It almost has a game show quality to it doesn’t it? It’s as if we’re watching “The Price is Right” and Bob Barker has just asked Rod Roddy to reveal to us what is behind door number one. What are we going to see? What is going to be revealed? In the gospel lessons yesterday and today, John the Baptist is the equivalent to our Rod Roddy. John is revealing the Messiah, the long hoped for deliverer of Israel, the one spoken about by the prophets. John says “Here is the Lamb of God!”
Perhaps you’ve seen some of those Italian Renaissance paintings of the Virgin Mary with John the Baptist and Jesus as chubby three-year old boys. John is usually wearing a junior version of the camel hair outfit of his wilderness years. Sometimes there’s a little lamb in the scene or John may be holding a staff with a banner that reads “Ecce Agnus Dei”: “Behold the Lamb of God.”
This is a “mash up” of the Luke story about John the Baptist and the Gospel of John’s story. It’s in Luke that we get the suggestion, at least, that John the Baptist and Jesus might have known each other, since their mothers were related. And that they may have played together as little boys. All that is missing in John. It’s in the Gospel of John that John the Baptist calls Jesus the “Lamb of God”—and that is missing in Luke and the other Gospels.