The lengths people will go to secure a home
Given the challenge of getting into the expensive Sydney housing market, the solution for one developer was to buy his 5-year-old son a $700,000 unit in Potts Point to ensure the young fellow’s long-term security.
At the other extreme, refugees escaping from situations where their former homes are no longer safe may spend years in foreign refugee camps, or risk dangerous journeys over land and sea, to find what we humans so deeply crave — a safe place to call home. Many die in the attempt. Others are shattered to be turned away.
In between are those who have lost their homes in the recent bushfires or who wait in cheap motels for something to become available from the Housing Commission. As the leading article in this edition of Insights implies, the issue is particularly relevant to the well-being of children, who, more than anyone else, need to feel safe and secure in order to thrive.
The need for a safe and nurturing home also applies to the rest of creation. Pandas and Orangutans, along with many other species, find their habitats invaded and stripped by the march of human ‘development’.
Bushfires do the same. Even the most iconic of rich habitats, the Great Barrier Reef, already partially denuded, is now threatened by dredging and other activities associated with the proposed expansion of coal-mining in Northern Queensland. If we want to rationalise these losses by arguing for the so-called “imperative of economic growth”, we perhaps need reminding that the literal meaning of the word ‘economics’ implies good housekeeping.
The homeless will probably always be with us, but woe betide those who create homelessness due to callous indifference or ulterior motive, as so often happens, before international sporting events like the Olympics and the Football World Cup.
This suffering is reflected in the plight of the Holy Family, who, after a long and arduous journey, had to be put up in a stable because all available beds were taken at the time. As John’s Gospel says, “He came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him.” There is something of ultimate rejection about being turned away at the door.
This theme of hospitality, especially strong in Luke’s Gospel, finds particular expression in the homecoming of the so-called ‘Prodigal Son’, and the ironic reversal of cultural norms when Jesus accepts hospitality in the homes of frowned-upon ‘sinners’, like the tax-collectors Levi and Zaccheus. The call of Jesus is to follow him into the fellowship of God’s home (or kingdom), where God’s hospitality is ultimately enjoyed in what Jesus called “Life in all its fullness”.
When the Prime Minister recently announced that most of our Forces personnel in Afghanistan would be home for Christmas, he was expressing the fulfilment of a desire that runs deep in all of us. Anything that keeps us from this experience needs to be morally justified — like those who staff essential services so we can continue to be safe and happy in our celebrations. Any reason less worthy than that; be it our greed, our fear, or just thoughtlessness, needs to be examined in the light of the compassion and hospitality of God, who remains aggrieved when even one sheep is still wandering lost in the wilderness.
Wherever you are, may you share the rich blessings of a Christmas at home in the heart of God.
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Rev. Dr Brian Brown