Seven years ago, I was in Iraq for the last week of the Battle for Fallujah. It was the week before Christmas when all through the desert, the troops were all longing for a house safe and still. How could we even imagine that this would be the best Christmas ever when we had no way of getting home for the holidays, for we were thousands of miles away from all that we loved?
The last U.S. troops convoyed out of Iraq and into Kuwait yesterday. The Army battalion that I said Mass for in the desert were the ones closing the gate and thus ending this almost nine-year war. There is no jubilation. But there is a sense of peace. Over 4,500 U.S. troops gave their lives. Over 200,000 Iraqi citizens lost their lives. What did we accomplish? Who profited from this fog of war? Who is still paying for the sins of our society?
These are really tough questions that I reckon have no easy or short answer. Each of us must evaluate the part we play in the wars of the world and within our families. If we truly want peace in our lives we must first be peaceful persons in our own hearts. Then we must be peaceful in our families and communities. We cannot give what we do not have. We can’t “give” democracy and peace to another country if we haven’t achieved it in our own country. It has been over 150 years since our Civil War, and yet we still have not discovered a true peace. We still bristle and balk over our unresolved issues of equality, civil rights and bi-partisan issues that seem to be the real root of our discontent and violence.
I would like to share with you just one of the amazing reflections from a book I am reviewing for the Military Writers’ Society of America. The book, Faith Deployed…Again (More Daily Encouragement for Military Wives) is composed by Jocelyn Green and 25 contributing authors from every branch of the U. S. military. Many of us agreed to the war in Iraq at first because we believed it would make our house safe. Even though Jesus, Mary and Joseph did not have a house at his birth, they did find a “home for the Holy Night of Birth.” Consider what Leeana Tankersley writes:
God makes homes for the homeless
Psalm 68: The Message
I UNDERESTIMATED THE GRIEF I would experience when I moved home from the Middle East. We received orders back to my hometown, and I naively assumed I would be able to jump back into life with relatively little transition. I was blindsided when reeling feelings of loneliness arrived.
Back home, everyone’s life had changed while we were gone—including my own—and I felt like I was trying to jump into a game of double Dutch.
What really threw me was how isolated I felt. In Bahrain, I only had a few close friends, but somehow that felt like plenty. Back home, I was surrounded by hundreds of people I had practically grown up with, and yet I rarely felt known or understood.
Of course, everyone wanted to know, “How was Bahrain?” But every time I tried to put my experiences into words, I’d feel these unwelcome tears rising and I’d search for words. How could I ever express the breadth and depth of this strange place that had shaped me so significantly?
What is more painful than feeling like you don’t belong? Especially when what you thought was home turns out to be the most foreign place of all?
Scripture contains countless stories of those who were exiled, plagued with the gnawing sense of being foreign, wondering where they fit. The story of God is a story of reconciliation, belonging, and homemaking. In fact, isn’t that the central narrative of Scripture: Once we were not a people, but now we are a people (1 Peter 2:10)?
If you are feeling homeless today—whether you have returned home and it no longer seems to fit you, you have left home and you are lost in a sea of strangers, or you have no idea where home is anymore—don’t lose hope. God makes homes for the homeless.
Rarely does He build to our measurements, expectations, or time frames. In fact, God’s shelter for us can come in all shapes and sizes.
Shortly after we returned home from Bahrain, I happened onto a group of women who took me in. We have spent the last five years listening to each other’s lives, being a sacred shelter to each other. We make a point to listen instead of advise, pray instead of preach, hope instead of judge. Somewhere in the alchemy of validation and love, a sense of belonging has been forged.
Slowly, this group has become the hands and feet of God in my life, a place of belonging and comfort for me—a home.
May God be building a safe house for you, even today.
Do I have people in my life I can trust?
Am I willing to reach out to them when I need support?
God, please build me a home. May I find the enduring shelter of safe individuals around me, and may I be brave enough to live in the warmth and protection they provide. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
To learn more, please visit http://www.FaithDeployed.com
O Beloved, there truly is no place like home for the holy days. We are all called home to be with our true family. Our Mother will again wrap her baby in swaddling clothes and lay him in a stinking manger because there is no room for him in the many beautifully decorated homes for the holidays. I realized where my true home was back on a dreary, rainy and cold Christmas day when I was in a war torn country where Abraham almost sacrificed his son, Isaac.
After preaching at about 19 Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services among the troops that “this has to be the best Christmas ever”, I no longer believed it. But when I reluctantly trudged up the 5 flights of stairs to the 19 year old Marine who wanted Communion on Christmas, life seemed cruel and empty to me. Then I placed my a vulnerable Jesus into the battle scarred and filthy hands of this young man who probably struggled in his faith also. Like Mother Mary, I basically wrapped Jesus in swaddling clothes and laid him in a stinking manger. When the Marine began to sing O Holy Night louder and more beautifully than I could, I knew I was truly home for all eternity.
Gratitude and love filled my being. “Do not be afraid, for behold, I proclaim to you Good News of great joy that will be for all peoples. For today in the City of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Beloved. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying:
“Glory to God in the highest
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests!”
So my Beloved, let us go, then, to Bethlehem to see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us. Let us enter into our very own hearts and journey into our hearts to our home. Christ Mass is where we will find our eternal home…Today!
Merry and Joyous Christmas!
Let us pray that all people of all nations will find their Way Home!
Love, joy, peace,
Father Ron Moses +