This Advent, God calls us to come home for Christmas. God calls us to come back from all those places where we have settled for less than the fullness of life promised to us in Christ. God calls us back from all the ambitions and possessions we have pursued, thinking they would satisfy us. God calls us to let go of any bitterness and resistance to forgive that block the light of love from warming us. Preparing for Christmas means looking deep within ourselves and asking if our hearts are truly at home in the lives we are living. God calls us to come home and to rest, to be embraced by one who loves us as we are. God offers us a place where we are fully known and also fully accepted.
Ruth 1:16-17 Common English Bible (CEB)
16 But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to abandon you, to turn back from following after you. Wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. 17 Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord do this to me and more so if even death separates me from you.”
God has been placing this offer before us since before we were even interested. God has been at work not just in what we would call overtly religious ways, but also through ordinary actions and embedded traditions in our lives. For instance, Israel’s tradition of the kinsman redeemer was a vehicle of grace in place long before Ruth and Naomi made the journey to Bethlehem, and the tradition of gleaning laid the groundwork to keep them alive day by day. Ruth’s willingness to work hard and take risks characterized her personality, but they also expressed God’s intent to supply Naomi’s needs. God had shaped Boaz’s honorable character to make him a man of compassion who protected Ruth and who, by following tradition, allowed the childless widow to have a home. Ruth’s relationship with Naomi brought Ruth from another country to warm Boaz’s life. Their son became the means for God to melt the bitterness in Naomi’s heart. God used all these circumstances. Even if the people involved thought they were acting completely on their own initiative, God was at work.
In a similar way, God is also at work to prepare us to open ourselves to love. God uses all that happens to us, all our less-than-what-God-wants choices. The One we seek is at work in ways we can’t even recognize, guiding us toward the path by which to make our way home.
Mary Lou Redding retired as Editorial Director of The Upper Room daily devotional guide in May 2012. Among her recent writing projects is a compilation of prayers by Upper Room staff members titled Prayers for Life’s Ordinary and Extraordinary Moments and the small-group study The Lord’s Prayer: Jesus Teaches Us to Pray.