I’ll Be Home for Christmas

Where is home? Maybe it’s with Mom and Dad and siblings? Or with your spouse and children? Perhaps you’ll be wrapped up in a warm blanket in front of the fireplace, with a pet curled up at your feet or in your lap? Home and hearth are gifts from God. They are given to each of us differently but are always a blessing of our generous heavenly Father.

But sometimes the home isn’t what it should be. Sometimes we are left alone as our beloved dies. Sometimes our home is wrecked by separation and divorce. Sometimes our children forsake us. Sometimes it seems God has no one for us, and we’re destined for a solitary life. Worse yet, sometimes we might think God Himself has abandoned our homes when there is only darkness and terrifying silence.

It might surprise you that I have a soft spot for sentimental Christmas songs. While they’re usually not appropriate for church, with a lack of Christian confession or substantial lyrics, there’s something about the season that calls for these commercially recorded secular carols. Perhaps it’s because I heard them from infancy on the radio, on Firestone LPs, and playing in the shopping malls? Or perhaps there’s something deeper in them?

One of my favorites is “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” written in 1943 to honor soldiers overseas who longed to be home at Christmas time. The point of view is of a soldier stationed overseas during World War II, writing a letter to his family asking for snow, mistletoe, and presents under the tree.

Crosby sang, “Christmas Eve will find me; Where the love light gleams; I’ll be home for Christmas; If only in my dreams.” Maybe the melancholy, “if only in my dreams,” catches our ear. There’s hopefulness and realism wrapped up together. The soldier longs to be home but, at the same time, knows that may be only a dream. Like the WWII soldier who longs to go home for Christmas, many long for the Christmas home that they used to have or never had.

It’s been said, “Home is where the heart is.”Where is your heart? Where have you placed your affections? If you love what is lost, can your love ever find its home? Maybe you know only know terrible loss this holiday? But perhaps something in Bing Crosby’s hit can bring you home again for Christmas or bring Christmas into your home. He sang, “Christmas Eve will find me; Where the love light gleams.”

The ultimate “love light” is Jesus. And on the eve of our Christ’s nativity, we celebrate His birth with a mass, or as Lutherans call it, Divine Service. Even as we gather in darkness, the light of Christ, proclaimed in the Gospel of sins forgiven, will shine forth. The love of Christ for the whole world is declared and received by those gathered to receive.

As the prophet foretold, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, Upon them a light has shined” (Isaiah 9:2) Or as Zacharias sang, “Through the tender mercy of our God, With which the Dayspring from on high has visited us; To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, To guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:78-79).

The love of Christ shines bright for you in His church this holy season. It’s the real Christmas, where even better gifts than snow, mistletoe, or wrapped presents are given. Jesus brings together people from every nation, tribe, and language. His Spirit adopts them as God’s children in Holy Baptism. And made God’s holy family, you’re called home for Christ’s mass. A rich feast of Word, hymnody, and gifts will be served.

I’ll be home for Christmas, you can plan on me. I pray you’ll come home to Christ’s church for Christmas, too. And the home and hearth, you’ll find there won’t be a dream but will last into eternity.

Originally printed in The Sounder