Authored by Jewel Roque
When I was growing up, Christmas was always a magical time. Every activity was held in joyous anticipation. Decorating a delicately scented pine tree with lights and trinkets. Baking delicious Christmas cookies and enjoying the scents that wafted through the air.
Filling the air with those songs that we reserve for this special time of year; songs that hold our hearts and stir our souls with the essence of the season. Reaching out to others with the unique message that Christmas brings, through songs and plays, letters and cards, love and gifts from the heart.
The very air, crisp and cold, crackling with a sense of expectancy throughout the entire season.
That was until I was 17. Then everything changed.
I had moved to India nine months before Christmas, so the culture shock had long since worn off. But trying to get into the “Christmas spirit” in a new country was an unusual challenge that I hadn’t expected.
Rather than the crisp, cold air I was accustomed to, the eastern sun shone hot and bright as it baked the ground. It seemed impossible to even dream of a white Christmas in weather I always associated with mid-summer.
Our “Christmas tree” was a fernlike plant that we placed on a small table and decorated with homemade baubles. It drooped beneath the load.—A true “Charlie Brown” tree.
I couldn’t even find baking soda in the stores, let alone all the special ingredients to bake my traditional cookies. I bid a mental farewell to what had always been my favorite part of Christmas preparation.
We had just moved from one city to another, so rather than sharing the message of Christmas with others, we were painting walls, moving furniture, installing screens on the windows, and banishing insects from the pantry.
A friend and I went from store to store searching for a turkey, and finally, after being referred to one place and then another, a young man pointed to a few creatures in a dusty yard, running around pecking at the ground. The “turkey” was smaller than an average chicken. My visions of Christmas dinner vanished into oblivion.
And somewhere, in the middle of all that, I discovered that something was missing.
Was it the magic?
Or maybe the essence of Christmas itself?
Where had it gone?
Was it possible to find it?
Days passed in feverish activity, and before I knew it, Christmas Eve drew to a close. Still, I had not found what was missing from my heart, and an empty, lonely feeling settled over me.
“Let’s watch a Christmas movie,” a few friends suggested.
“That’s all right,” I declined. “I’ve got a few things to do.”
I went to my room and wrapped a few last-minute homemade gifts. And no, I didn’t find the magic in the wrapping paper. I sat on my mattress (no beds since the move) and switched on my portable CD player. A friend of mine had borrowed it, and she had put a Christmas CD in it. Hearing the music begin to play, when the joy of the season felt so far away, irritated me.
I took off my headphones. It just didn’t seem fair. I had moved to India to serve the Lord by serving others, yet right now I just felt so alone.
So far away from home.
And in that moment, an unexpected recognition grew—the sense that my feeling of loneliness and homesickness mirrored another experience from thousands of years ago.
Of someone who left His home—a place of light and life and rapturous beauty—to bring an eternal message of love and hope to those who dwelt in darkness.
If anyone had the right to be homesick, it was Jesus.
If anyone had a reason to pine for the comforts of home, it would be the Son of God, who had ordered the stars and planets in their celestial dance, and then came to a place where He was unrecognized and had nowhere to lay His head.
Words began to form in my mind, and I wrote them as they came.
When You saw the crib from on high,
Did You see your death and sigh?
Or did You see the lifeless tomb?
Our Savior, from a humble womb.
When You lay in the manger, damp and cold,
Did You long for an angel’s wings to enfold?
Or realize that we too would long for these things,
And so You chose to walk, not soar on wings.
When You tasted this world’s humble fare,
Did You long for heaven’s sumptuous care?
Or knew the taste would be richer with us at Your side,
And gave us truth while with man You’d abide.
When You felt weak, and weary and worn,
Did You long to leave this world, so forlorn?
Or did You know we needed to be shown the way?
Our light, and for our sake You stayed.
When You did see and touch and feel,
This homesick world from one so real,
Did it pain You to stay a while?
But Lord, I think I saw You smile.
Because You knew that heaven’s touch,
On our poor world would mean so much;
So You died and then rose to glory,
To fulfill man’s deepest, true love story.
As I finished the poem, I didn’t feel so alone. Instead, a new sensation arose—something between a privilege and a kinship. Perhaps a knowledge that I wasn’t alone, and never would be, no matter how I felt.
Jesus left the warm embrace of heaven to walk the lonely roads of this life. So He knows what it’s like; He knows how it feels. And one day, He’ll greet us as we enter His Father’s house—a place where we will finally be home again.1
Only love and joy forevermore.
He is never far, and because of that, we are never far from home.
Home is in the heart, especially at Christmas.
1 John 14:2
Read by Amber Larriva. Music taken from the Rhythm of Christmas album. Used by permission. Copyright© 2012 by The Family International