This Advent meditation is part of the Liberti Church 2019 Advent and Christmas Prayerbook, and it is by Liberti seminary intern Tara Ann Wooward.
The first time the phrase “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” meant something was when my beloved brother returned home from college—and the second time was when I moved away to seminary. Home takes on a new meaning once it’s been left behind.
Yet, home can also be elusive and painful. For anyone who has experienced exile or homelessness, job or school relocation, the question “where are you from?” can provoke painful memories of loss and loneliness. In a time of unprecedented transience, we might wonder where and when we will ever truly feel at home again.
Ruth is a book for anyone on this latter side of exile, anyone who’s longed for the inside but has only seen “home” from the outside, anyone seeking home in an often-hostile land. Ruth is a book about the outsider in exile who becomes part of the family. Its theme of the sojourner, foreigner, homeless one, and outcast finds a fitting place among the Christmas story.
Certainly, for many, like the Holy Family who escaped to Egypt, home remains an elusive vision, made ever more complex by relocation, or political asylum, or immigration, or domestic strife, or any number of oppressive social systems.
These wandering voices—the voices of Ruth and Naomi, of Jesus, of the Magi, of the Israelites in exile, who experienced loss of location and identity—must be remembered. Travelers who come following the Star of David must leave for home by another road—and some never settle anywhere at all.
However, Ruth is also a story of redemption that takes on another hue. Often when we think of redemption, it’s a colorless word. Redemption might not subtly awaken our senses like the snap of cinnamon. But Ruth comes to us just when our imaginations need baptizing with the freshness of a light shower. Ruth and Naomi’s story remind us that despite profound loss of both a loved one and a location, we are never ultimately left lonely.
In Ruth, we see the subtle divine cues of a God who prepares a place for the placeless, whose plan for redemption includes a home with us. Emmanuel, indeed. God is with us.
About the Author: Tara has called many places “home”—the golden grassland of Nebraska, sunflower fields of Moldova, cornfields of Iowa, rust-red dirt of Africa, but most recently Princeton Seminary’s “Farminary” in New Jersey.
Art: Meinrad Craighead, Vessel