Christmas reminds me just how much I’m not at home. Strangers now own the house where I grew up outside of Philadelphia. Five years ago, my parents sold it and moved to central Pennsylvania to live closer to my sister. Shortly thereafter my mother passed away. As much as I enjoy visiting my family there and appreciate a place to stay, that house is not my home.
The house that my wife and I bought when she was pregnant with our second child has been leveled. All those memories with our first three children preserved only in old photographs and videos, and, more importantly, in our minds. However, as much as I cherish those memories, that house was not my home.
Now we live in the house between the arborvitaes, having moved here a week before Christmas in 2009. So much has changed: so many renovations, so many lives. My youngest three children have known no other house as home. And yet Christmas reminds me that even as wonderful as this is, especially after our addition, it is not my home.
I wrote “Homecoming” almost twenty years ago, inspired by a trip back to my wife’s childhood home in Bath, New York over Christmas break. Traveling across the Southern Tier Expressway late in the evening so the children could sleep (they HATED the car), the initial words to this song emerged. I was inspired by the snow-covered hay bales lying in the fields that moonlit night. In a juxtaposition of homecomings, the song merges the trip to Bath with a journey to Bethlehem. There, in that lowly manger lay the fulfillment of the promise: an invitation to come home where we will all find we truly belong.
Vincent H. Anastasi - 2002 Early winter morning and I'm racing the sun up the Southern Tier; frost is on the window yet I clearly see salvation is drawing near: wrapped in the tender flesh of infancy, a long-awaited king destined to wear a wooden cross and nails, the greater gift he brings. Passing frosted hay bales floating aimlessly on milky rolling hills, I see the shepherds trembling at the sudden sound of a thousand angels, and I am come begging rest, a traveler from afar following my emptiness to a promised star. In the warmth of a deep December, I'm coming home to the Mossy Banks, to the manger hay where I belong. Singing to the rhythm of the highway's inconsistent fluctuations, eyes searching longingly for a sign that we have reached our destination; Wise men still seeking a royal palace bed gather round a common manger in a barn instead. In the warmth of a deep December, I'm coming home to the Mossy Banks, to the manger hay where I belong. My eldest son is waking as I pull up in the driveway of our home, travelers arriving realize the many miles still left to go, and I will meet you at the place where the Savior lies bearing the only gift I bring - my surrendered life. In the warmth of a deep December, I'm coming home to the Mossy Banks, to the manger hay where I belong. In the warmth of a deep December, I'm coming home to the Mossy Banks, to the manger hay where I belong, where I belong...