The Child Arrives … Our Home Is Ready
To an open house in the evening
Home shall men come,
To an older place than Eden
And a taller town than Rome.
To the end of the way of the wandering star,
To the things that cannot be and that are,
To the place where God was homeless
And all men are at home.
— The House of Christmas, G.K. Chesterton
Many years ago,I was working in downtown Chicago, living with my parents, and riding the commuter train back and forth from my family home in the suburbs. I will simply say it was a difficult time, and there were many late afternoons when I would be riding the commuter train from the city to our apartment in the suburbs. I would stare out the window at the winter scene, see the lights of apartments and homes, many with Christmas bulbs and trees in the window, a quick glance as we zoomed by. It should be a magical sight, but it was simply cold and dark for me.
I was 23, without direction. I was “going through the motions” with no plan at all, no path, no idea what to do except to continue my line of work at the time.
Some afternoons, I would meet a college friend at, yes, a “singles bar” on what was the hottest street for young adults, Division Street. We’d have some beers and hope for whatever we hoped might happen that evening which, along with the other young men and women enjoying artificial happiness fueled by liquor, which turned out to be …. nothing.
Artificial happiness abounded, not the true happiness of Christmas, the joy of Christ’s birth. We were all lying to ourselves, and lonely, too.
Right after the first of the year, my job was eliminated. What should be a serious predicament turned out to be the best thing that could happen. I had to take God’s message to heart. Follow the star that guided men of old, and find your true happiness. In my case, it was a move back into radio, in Dubuque, Iowa, and a journey that started in that river town which continues to this day. In addition to a complete change of scenery, I felt the call to Christ with the Dominican order … a path that changed my life, again, in good time, God showing me the path to be “in the world, but not of it”.
I was truly “homeless” in my spiritual way, as was Mary and Joseph in theirs, trying to find the place where the Prince of Peace could be born, and lay His head.
I have been past the now-deserted establishments on Division Street. I have wondered what happened to the other 20-somethings in the early 1970s who were “homeless” in artificiality. I pray they decided to follow the wandering star and to find the true joy of Christmas, Emmanuel, God is with us.
We are invited to leave all things worldly, all pain, all sadness, all fear, outside the place where a homeless family brought forth Jesus to the world. May we find our joy this season, and our true “home.”