“Praise the Lord, the God of Israel,
because he has visited and redeemed his people.
He has sent us a mighty Savior
from the royal line of his servant David,
just as he promised
through his holy prophets long ago.
Now we will be saved from our enemies
and from all who hate us.
He has been merciful to our ancestors
by remembering his sacred covenant—
The covenant he swore with an oath
to our ancestor Abraham.
We have been rescued from our enemies
so we can serve God without fear,
in holiness and righteousness
for as long as we live.
And you, my little son,
will be called the prophet of the Most High,
because you will prepare the way for the Lord.
You will tell his people how to find salvation
through forgiveness of their sins.
Because of God’s tender mercy,
the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
and to guide us to the path of peace.” (Luke 1:68–79 NLT)
Like many good German words, fernweh doesn’t have a perfect counterpart in English. In some ways, it’s a mix of two other ideas that are much more familiar to many of us: homesickness and wanderlust. Where homesickness is a yearning to return to where you come from, fernweh is a yearning for somewhere you’ve not yet been; similarly, fernweh is a hunger for a specific location rather than the generic desire for travel found in wanderlust.
Even if we don’t speak German, all of us know the feeling of fernweh. We feel it when we long for a land where justice is never perverted, where love never bruises or injures, and where we know true wholeness and peace. C. S. Lewis describes it this way in Mere Christianity, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”
Until we reach this other world, a place that is our true home and for which we were created, we are like guests at a feast who can smell the food but cannot yet partake. We know it exists, and we long for it like those with growling stomachs, but it is even now still out of reach.
When Jesus took on flesh, it was as if a citizen of that other world had arrived in our neighborhood and we were given a glimpse of what life could truly be like without sin, death, destruction, and fear. To paraphrase Luke 1:79, Jesus became our guide to the path of peace. As our guide, Jesus serves as the perfect example of how we can help our true home break through into the hear and now, for it is through every act of love, every kind word, every hospitable or merciful act that we manifest the Kingdom of God and give those around us a taste of a food from a land for which they were created but never known.