Homeless (Advent Thoughts)

Advent means ‘coming’. For ages I really didn’t understand Advent. Then a few years ago, a preacher explained that traditionally Advent preaching would focus not on the incarnation but on the return of Jesus; not on his first coming but his second coming. It was meant to be a penitential season, a time to pause and reflect.

I want to reflect that double perspective in these four Wednesdays before Christmas  – exploring themes in the Christmas story and applying them to us as we wait for Christ’s return. We’ll be simultaneously meditating on Christ’s first coming and second coming. Please do join me and link up your own Advent/Christmas posts below!

The Internet tells me that there are almost 400,000 Haitians still homeless after the 2010 earthquake. They are living out their days in hastily-erected camps, inhabiting flimsy tents. They have no home, no secure place.

Others in this world drift though, forced out, displaced, with no piece of earth they can call their own, nowhere to stand and settle.

Such was the case for God, when he dwelt on earth. The Son of Man had nowhere to lay his head. He identified with those who were poor and passing through. Even at his birth he was born in a manger, perhaps in a shed, perhaps outside, far from home.

I picture the scene of people everywhere, crowds, dusty roads, donkeys, rolled-up make-shift bags. People travelling, jostling, talking, sharing food, grumbling at the unnecessary bureaucracy. I imagine Mary with the pressure of the double deadline – the deadline of needing to be in a different place for the census, and the impending deadline of her baby being born. I imagine Mary as she sat on the donkey, focusing on a fixed point ahead of her, the cramps increasing in intensity, trying to breathe through the pain.

I think of Joseph’s anxiety as he pushed through the crowds, trying to negotiate with officials and friends. (I wonder why it was they had no relatives to offer them housing, in Joseph’s family’s home town. Had Joseph’s family disowned Mary, perhaps, for being pregnant? I don’t know.) I imagine Mary close to tears from pain and the not-knowing, the dismay at looking at the dirty animal trough, the acceptance that this would have to be it, the hoping and praying that it would be okay, that the baby would be okay.

I think of Mary and I think of the world’s refugees. I imagine their longing to be at home, not to be in this in-between limbo. I imagine their desire for the long journey to be over, to be settled and relaxed.


We too are refugees. We travel and pass through this world, but it is not our home (1 Pet 1). Even our bodies, they are not permanent, they are our temporary, make-shift accommodation (2 Cor 5).

Sometimes it is not the pain of this world that most strikes us – more, the unsettledness of it all. We do not feel like we really belong. We feel that we were made for more than this 9-5 drudgery, the banal and the wearying chores. We were made for more than early mornings, family rows, traffic jams, paper-pushing, watching X Factor, eating takeaways. We sometimes long for brighter days, but we don’t know what they would look like.

And here’s the truth: our spiritual ancestors were tentmakers, wanderers in wilderness; our saviour was a homeless drifter, born in an emergency shelter. And we too are drifting through this world, as refugees, strangers.

We do not belong. We are not home yet.

O Come, O Come Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! rejoice!
Emmanuel will come to thee, O Israel.

I’m linking with Joy in this Journey, WIP Weds, Imperfect Prose. If you have written a post in the last week on Advent or Christmas, link up below by following these instructions:

1. Click on the ‘Add your link’ button and put in your details to link your post (only one post per week, per person please).
2. Put a link to my blog at the end of your post, so others can find the link-up too.
3. This is REALLY important (and kinda the point of the whole thing): visit the person who’s linked up before you and encourage them in the comments. You are also free to click on anyone else’s who might interest you!

Over to you:

  • Can you relate to feeling like you don’t belong in this world, the unsettledness of it all?

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23 Responses to Homeless (Advent Thoughts)

  1. Kati Woronka 6th December, 2012 at 1:16 pm #

    “We sometimes long for brighter days, but we don’t know what they would look like.” This is really interesting, the thought that we don’t know what they would look like. On one hand, I resonate strongly with it. On the other hand, I somehow believe in my gut that I SHOULD know what they would look like. I wonder where that feeling comes from and if it’s justified or not… thanks for getting my thoughts rolling – again!

    • Tanya 10th December, 2012 at 8:52 pm #

      Yes – I know what you mean on this! Would be interesting to hear what conclusions you come to… Much love and thanks for linking!

  2. Joy Lenton 5th December, 2012 at 10:08 pm #

    I love the way you inhabit the minds of the biblical characters and bring them alive in your imagination. Reading scripture this way helps us to put ourselves in their shoes and gain a better understanding of how they felt and acted.
    It is so true that this place is not our home. Our hearts’ true home is with our God and being in His glorious presence. We have but a taste of it here and it brings such a longing to be free of these earthly shackles. I echo Mia’s thoughts. What a day it will be when we meet Him face to face! Blessings to you, Tanya, for another precious and beautiful post. God is truly using you in your afflictions while you are here. 🙂

    • Tanya 6th December, 2012 at 11:28 am #

      Oh, thank you Joy! I’m so glad you connected with this, and as ever I am so encouraged by your words. Much love to you.

  3. Mia 5th December, 2012 at 4:34 pm #

    Hi Tanya
    This made me think deep and if I had to make a choice, I would rather be without anything in this world, but blessed with the joy of living in our Lord every day. Dear One, I cannot live without Him. Even the thought of that fills me with horror. Yes, we are pilgrims on our way home.
    Thank you for deep truths.

    • Tanya 6th December, 2012 at 11:27 am #

      Beautiful Mia – I do so love your heart for Jesus. That is the best that anyone can say of us, that we long for Him.

  4. Caris Adel 5th December, 2012 at 4:31 pm #

    “I wonder why it was they had no relatives to offer them housing, in Joseph’s family’s home town.” Actually, the greek word used for ‘inn’ is also used in Mark 14 to describe the upper room, and can mean a spare room in a house, not a hotel. And in the family homes, they kept the animals in the basement, hence the manger. So chances are, everyone was home for the census and there were no more bedrooms, so they were in the basement of the family home. Which means, she probably had aunts/mothers/cousins there to help with the birthing process and poor Joseph didn’t have to go it alone.


    • Tanya 6th December, 2012 at 11:25 am #

      Ah, interesting! Though that leaves me with further questions – if they were in a family home, with relatives, why make the woman giving birth go down to the basement, rather than the men? Why allow your relative’s baby to be laid in a manger, rather than bringing down a blanket or crib or something?

  5. Nancy @ Pilgrim Wanderings 5th December, 2012 at 4:09 pm #

    I just did a post last night on Advent and how I never really knew exactly what it was. How funny! Looking forward to being a part of this link-up this month.

    • Tanya 6th December, 2012 at 11:23 am #

      How cool! I enjoyed your post – thanks for joining in!

  6. Jillie 5th December, 2012 at 3:29 pm #

    Yes Tanya, I have often found myself with strong feelings of not belonging here, of yearning for that perfect place with Christ. Especially when I first believed. I would spend hours and hours in the Word–get totally lost in It. My soul was so parched and I didn’t even know it. I had been fed lies most of my young life…and I knew that I had finally found Truth! Going ‘out there’ into the ‘world’ suddenly felt so alien—like a kind of culture shock. I noticed every detail of the wrong that people said and did, and I had a hard time reconciling it in my mind because I now knew how we were ‘meant’ to live.
    So here I am, years down the road, and I often find myself quite ‘comfortable’ again in my surroundings. Quite comfortable sometimes in all that ‘the world’ has to offer. And I have to remind myself that “this world is not my Home…I’m just a passin’ through”.

    • Tanya 6th December, 2012 at 11:22 am #

      I can so relate to your journey – this has been my experience too. These days I find myself getting a little too comfortable and I need to remind myself that this is not Joy, that is to come. Thanks so much for sharing. X

  7. Sarah M Wells 5th December, 2012 at 3:12 pm #

    Great new perspective on the advent season I had never considered before. Thanks, Tanya, and thanks for the Twitter invite to link up on Advent this month. I’m posting daily from our family’s advent activities, but I’ll also be including some poems for Advent Sundays.

    • Tanya 6th December, 2012 at 11:21 am #

      Thank you! I’m really enjoying thinking through Advent from a fresh angle- it was new to me too. I LOVED your poem – so beautiful. Thanks for linking up!


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