As we begin our Advent and Christmas celebrations this year, I have found myself turning to that very first Christmas when Jesus was born to Mary. If we were to put modern day labels on their situation, the story begins with Mary and Joseph, far from home, relying on the kindness of distant kin and strangers. They were homeless that first Christmas Eve, couch-surfers made even more vulnerable by Mary’s advanced pregnancy. Then, after the miracle of Jesus’ birth, the wonder-filled devotion of the shepherds and the visits from the magi, Mary and Joseph learned through a dream that King Herod wanted to kill their son. That dream warned them to leave their country and go to Egypt. In Egypt they were refugees, a family in need of asylum because they had fled Israel afraid for their lives. A few years later, once the king had died, they were able to return to Israel.
G.K. Chesterton, a Christian author from the early 20th century, wrote a poem, “The House of Christmas” that tells this story. In it, he writes,
A Child in a foul stable,
Where the beasts feed and foam;
Only where He was homeless
Are you and I at home;
As Christians we have found our true homes in the once homeless Jesus. It is ironic, but fitting, that the one who came to welcome us as his brothers and sisters in God’s family was himself born of homeless parents. This is but one of many paradoxes concerning Jesus. He is the King who has no earthly kingdom, the Messiah who does not field an army to overthrow Rome, and the Son of God whose birth was first witnessed by humble, smelly, shepherds fresh from the fields. Chesterton’s poem concludes with these words,
To an open house in the evening
Home shall men come,
….To the end of the way of the wandering star,
To the things that cannot be and that are,
To the place where God was homeless
And all men are at home.
After our Christmas Eve service this year most of us will return to well-provisioned warm homes. We will spend time with friends and family. For that we give thanks. We know that there are those who will be homeless this Christmas, and for them we pray for food and shelter. As a congregation we contribute and some of us volunteer with agencies making a difference among the homeless – Operation Nightwatch, the local food banks, Mary’s Place, Jean Kim’s Foundation for Homeless Education, and so many others. But this Christmas let’s also take Chesterton’s advice and return home to our Savior, Jesus. Let’s be aware of the many ways our true home is found in Jesus, the Son of God, and how He is the true host of our Christmas celebrations.
May the wonder of all God has done for us through Jesus fill your hearts and gladden your homes this Christmas,