What does it mean to be “close to home”? We’ve been reflecting on the various meanings of “home,” our little congregation, this Advent. And yesterday’s fourth Sunday of Advent focused on the idea of “sanctuary” – “somewhere God’s love dwells freely and abundantly.” How we need that. Need that ourselves. And then, can be that for others.

Safety. Welcome. Room. To breathe. To think. To be, and so, to become.

Elizabeth’s place is sanctuary for Mary. Mary is sanctuary for Jesus.

Yesterday’s message was a whole new angle on the Visitation, the gospel for yesterday.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer insists that we romanticize the Christian community at our peril.

A great disillusionment with others, with Christians in general, and, if we are fortunate, with ourselves, is bound to overwhelm us as surely as God desires to lead us to an understanding of genuine Christian community. By sheer grace God will not permit us to live in a dream world even for a few weeks and to abandon ourselves to those blissful experiences and exalted moods that sweep over us like a wave of rapture. … Only that community which enters into the experience of this great disillusionment with all its unpleasant and evil appearances begins to be what it should be in God’s sight, begins to grasp in faith the promise that is given to it. The sooner this moment of disillusionment comes over the individual and the community, the better for both. … Every human idealized image that is brought into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be broken up so that genuine community can survive. Those who love their dream of a Christian community more than the Christian community itself become destroyers of that Christian community even though their personal intentions may be ever so honest, earnest, and sacrificial.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, quoted in William G. Britton, Wisdom from the Margins: Daily Readings, Resource Publications, 2018.

After twenty-seven years or so in a community, I imagine anyone even remotely aware of themselves and their surroundings will have experienced plenty of the disillusionments Bonhoeffer mentions. I think I qualify as … remotely aware, anyhow. And indeed, it dawns on me, I joined our little congregation one Sunday in December, 1994, so it has been just about exactly twenty-seven years now. And there have been plenty of all those disillusionments, right enough. [People: it’s all we ever need to say about that.]

Nevertheless, this place has been sanctuary for me.

I would wish this on anyone.

red line embellished

Image: Eastern red cedar berries, USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Herman, D.E. et al. 1996. North Dakota tree handbook. USDA NRCS ND State Soil Conservation Committee; NDSU Extension and Western Area Power Admin., Bismarck, ND., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons; I usually think of the cedars around here as weed trees, but this time of year, their green presence in the bare woods is really cheery.