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The Physician and author Oliver Sacks in his bestselling book Musicophilia:Tales of Music and the Brain calls the occurrence when a song loops in your mind over and over again a brainworm. That is exactly what I have had in my mind over the last couple of weeks. This is a song by the 1980’s new wave and avant-garde pop group Talking Heads which has bored into my thoughts every time I think about the birth of Jesus Christ. If you were around the church this week you would have heard me singing it in the hall. It goes, “Home is where I want to be, I guess I’m already there.”
It is no coincidence that this song has been in such heavy rotation in my mind’s jukebox. The other day my daughter Calla said something that triggered it. This brainworm began when she declared, “I want to go home.”
Calla was sitting on the couch in our Arlington home when she said this perplexing statement. So, let me just back up a minute for an explanation. We first noticed Calla saying this curious phrase when we moved to Rhode Island, and it reprised when we moved to the D.C. area. At first we thought it was because she missed our previous home so much, but since I have come to think of it as something much different. I noticed that she was saying it when she felt insecure, frightened, upset or angry. I see it as a wish for security, warmth our comforting touch. It has literally been years since I had heard her say it and then the other day, out of the blue she said it again. It slipped out of her mouth quite innocuously. I don’t think she realized that she had said it until my wife hugged her and replied, “We are at home sweetie.”
It got me thinking about home. It has been almost a year and a half since I have been back to my hometown of Lincoln, Nebraska. I have lived in Nebraska, Chicago, Texas, Louisiana, Rhode Island and the Metro D.C. area in my 40 years of life. Calla has lived in three places since she was born. I was reminded of the transient nature of our society again the other night. In a meeting someone nonchalantly said, “Well that is the nature of the D.C. culture, people are moving in and out all the time.” Everyone agreed.
I hate to break it to the residents of D.C. but this is more than a local trend, it is national. Working people under the age 30 only typically have job security in one place for 2.5 years. We have become extremely mobile, a two parent working, over booked society that strives for success and productivity. So, the question remains, “where is home?” It has become a much more complicated question over the years.
This is where I believe our story and the story of the holy family intersect this Christmas Eve. This young family searches for a place to stay, far from home. They are strangers in town, trying to fulfill the government’s census requirements. They are away, but this birth will always be irrevocably tied to being out of town guests in a barn. There is throughout the two testaments an aching realization that that we are visitors, aliens and strangers in a strange land as spiritual pilgrims in this life. It is with Christ’s birth that our sometimes estranged predicament is shared by God. The one called “God with us” had nothing but a stable to lay his head with a mother and father who tried their best to make do with their surroundings for this newborn child. So, even in our travels in this world we know that salvation begins anywhere.
So, with my daughter I say, “I want to go home!” Yet, I guess I am already there. I hope that even though strangers and aliens in this world you will feel the connection to Christ’s community this holiday season. Know that there is always a home here for you. Merry Christmas!
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