About a month before Christmas each year several churches not far from my house put up near their entrances very large signs that read: “This year, come home for Christmas.” I am pretty confident that in addition to the genuine welcome those signs offer, there is a certain amount of recruitment going on of those who may have stopped going to church as well as those folks who may never have darkened a church doorway. Beyond the particular evangelistic interests of these congregations there is a profound message in that sign. The words of welcome are a clear invitation to anyone who sees the sign to hear God’s call to any community of faith, and to know that such a place and such a people have a mission to be “home” no matter what one’s family of origin, or faith of origin are, no matter how far one has strayed and erred like a lost sheep. This sign with its simple message expresses succinctly the Christmas message of the Gospel of John we just heard. When God chose to make God’s home not only heaven, but this universe, this planet, and the very substance and flesh of human existence, then regardless of where we go in this life God will be there, too. Because God chose to dwell among us full of grace and truth all places, especially the church, can rightfully be called home, no matter what anyone says or does to the contrary.
We have finally arrived from whatever exile in which we have labored to the blessed announcement of hope that the Lord’s governing power will be exercised in ways that let us go home, home to God, home to a community of people who understand and live out our same longings, frustrations, and expectations. For the last several days and today we heard the familiar Christmas story of the Son given, the baby born. Now to understand what this means we abandon all the baby talk, the enchanting stories of angels and shepherds, and look at the life of God before time, and the human dilemma, our monumental struggle with good and evil, the alienation that comes from choosing our way, our desires over and against home and the relationship with God.
What we see is the God who out of love reaches beyond the completeness of the divine life to create. When this good creation and especially human creatures choose something other than relationship with God, choose exile, choose alienation, choose sin and death, God comes to this broken world of darkness as light, grace, and truth. God deliberately “sets up shop” among us to reshape radically even the darkness we know so well, making all things new, giving light to those who grope in darkness. This light-filled, graceful, and truthful Word who is sent is Jesus Christ. This Word Jesus is not at all accommodating to our homelessness, or our self-sabotaging efforts to remain in the dark. As a result Jesus is not well received. The Gospel of John tells us that we are given what we hope for and we reject him because he was just like us, weak and vulnerable, and we struggle mightily with how God shows genuine power in vulnerability. When our lives are only shaped by exile, by rejection and alienation, by the seeming absence of God, we do think that what we find daily is all there is. We settle for what is easy to expect, for the little gods of either the “same-old, same-old” or “the other shoe dropping.”
This is the day when we are to move from the baby and listen for a moment to how Jesus is the beginning, middle, and end of God’s hope-filled story for us. We are to hear that the great and mighty God has irreversibly altered the world as we know it. We are invited to receive the God who can deliver salvation, Jesus, who makes it possible for us to have a life at home in God. We are to see in Jesus God’s exact expression of all that God can give to us in divine love. Jesus comes to give each of us a completely new start, a life freed from what binds us, the possibility to stop being the children of lesser gods, and the opportunity to be the children of the one, true God. In other words, in embracing Jesus Christ we find the home that is God, and the home to which each and every one of us is called and welcomed. This home is ours always no matter the outward and visible circumstances of our lives.
This day celebrates that unexpected and undeserved God’s own Son, the source of all creation, entered our lives. God’s glory has been given to all because our bodies, not those of angels or any other creature, were deemed sufficient to become the tent of meeting for heaven and earth. We have the gift of God who knows our deepest sorrows and greatest joys, the best and the worst about us, and still, still insisted on being at home with us on earth as well as making a home for us in heaven. This is the self-giving God who calls us home this day, who loves us beyond all expectations, who dares to dream for us, when we are dreamless and discouraged, the God who demands a better home for us than any we could ever give ourselves, or others, let alone God.
We have a place in this story because our God dares to be not only our kind-maker, but our very own brother and Savior in the flesh in Jesus Christ. God welcomes us home this day. Come home to this hope and love in faith. It is the season of many gifts that make us happy and grateful and bless us. God seeks in the birth of Jesus to welcome us to our true home. Welcome the wonder of this love home today and always. Amen.