Saturday, November 26, 2005

Home for Christmas

“And when he came to himself… I will arise and go to my father… But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.” Luke 5

I fully understand that the parable of the Prodigal Son has absolutely nothing to do with Christmas. In fact, at the time Jesus told this story Christmas was not a celebrated holiday. Today, however, there are few things that get people to think about home like Christmas. For some people the memories are bitter and painful while for others they are memories of simpler and happier times.

Everyone has one favorite Christmas memory. Mine, as I’ve shared here before, was when I was five years old and I got my first Tyco H.O. scale train set. That memory is so precious because it became foundational to my entire childhood. I don’t have many memories of doing lots of things with my dad but I do have the memories of he and I spending hours and hours turning that simple train set into a full blown layout that took one third of the basement. We spent weekends going through every hole in the wall hobby shop on every side street and alley way in Schenectady and Albany. We built building, landscaped the countryside , and added dozens of locomotives and cars. From the time I was 5 until I was 18 and left home to head off to college it was not uncommon for me to spend many happy, contented hours in the family cellar working on another detail of that layout.

When I went to college I secured a good job and stayed there year round. I remember coming home for a two week vacation one summer. As usual I headed down to the basement. I felt as though I had been kicked in the stomach when I saw the entire layout completely dismantled. Without me my father had lost interest. Every locomotive, car, and building had been carefully wrapped and placed in card board boxes. Imagine, my entire childhood packed away in boxes. It was then I realized it wasn’t really home anymore. Oh, it was a place I would always be welcomed and loved but God had other plans for me. Other places to go. Another place that was yet to become home.

Like the old WWII classic song “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” that tells the tale of a lonely G.I. far away from home who says he’s coming home “if only in my dreams” home had become a dream from dorm room. I grappled with the concept that God had not fully shown me all that was in store for me.

Today, I’m a middle aged man with children of my own. My two sons and me have our own H.O. scale train layout in a spare room in the house. We have spent hours in the very same stores my dad took me. There will come the day when my boys will head off into the destinies that God has for them. The Christmas mornings that began at 5:00AM with four little ones jumping up and down on my bed yelling, “Get up! It’s Christmas!” will be a memory. The Christmas Eves of “some adult assembly required” (never was there a bigger lie told in advertising) will be no more. The little giggles of children trying to sneak a peak under the tree before mom and dad awake and Christmas lists for Santa and endless viewings of Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph will fade into time past.

No matter how far the Lord and life may take my children I want them to always know there’s no place like home. Even if you can’t go back you can make your home now a haven of Christmas memories for those you love.

1) EMBRACE THE HOLIDY … don’t get so busy you miss it

2) EMBRACE THE REASON … don’t let Christ get lost in Christmas

3) EMBRACE THE MEMORY … don’t miss out - make some memories