December 24, 2016
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all (Titus 2:11). Amen
Who among us does not love a wonderful homecoming story? Books are written about them. Movies are made. Songs are sung. Many revolve around the Christmas season. You could have turned on the Hallmark Channel this season and been inundated with them. On Friday, there was a story in the Detroit Free Press about a girl who had lost her beloved bear at Detroit Metro. Through the power of social media, the bear was found and returned safely to her after he had an exciting day at work with an airline employee. Christmas can be a season of homecomings for all of us, even stuff animals.
Children come home after being away at college. Families gather together for a sort of reunion which can bring joy and celebration to many. The journey to get home can be as easy as driving across town to one’s parent’s house, or as lengthy as flying half-way across the world.
Coming home may bring struggles and challenges all of its own. Unfortunately, not everyone is welcome home. There may have been an argument or disconnect at some point that harmed relationships. Perhaps, the means are not available to get home. Perhaps there is not a home to return to.
Tonight, we experience a homecoming. Our gospel lesson brings us the wonderful story of Joseph and Mary returning to the land of his ancestors. I think it would be safe to assume that they most likely had challenges in their travels. How would you like to travel 90 miles either on foot or on donkey while being nearly nine months pregnant? Not only was it a long journey, Joseph was returning to his ancestor’s homeland with angst and an unsureness of what was to come.
When Joseph and Mary arrive in Bethlehem, there was no place for them. There appears to be no family in the area and they get turned down when looking for a bed to lay their weary heads and tired feet. Was this the homecoming they expected? Was this how Joseph really wanted to start his life with Mary? They eventually settle for a stable as shelter and a feed trough that will have to make do to lay their newborn child.
They were longing for a place of comfort and rest. We too long for home. We long for loved ones that will greet us when we walk through the door. We long for a place that is familiar and full of love. We long for a place that will give us peace. There is a Simon and Garfunkle song that speaks to this longing. You may have heard of it, it is titled, Homeward Bound. The refrain is:
Home where my thought’s escaping,
Home where my music’s playing,
Home where my love lies waiting
Silently for me.
Do we long for Christmas, as much as we long for home? Not just the presents and family, but do we long for the Christ child that comes to be in our midst? The child that lies in a manger that is changing the course of the world. The child that angels speak of. The child that shepherds in the field are compelled to go and see for themselves. Do you long for Christ this same way?
It is God’s desire for us to long for Jesus. The longing does not begin with humanity. The longing begins with God. It is God that longs for us. It is God that has created and has loved and has kept busy over the world that we live and breathe in. It is God that is with us in the darkness and in the light. God wants that relationship.
It is in this longing that God made the decision to come and be with us in the newborn baby, Jesus. In Jesus, we experience God with us, Emmanuel. God with us in a way that the world had never experienced before.
God coming to us in the form of a newborn baby, is a homecoming like no other homecoming! It is a love that comes down to earth that brings light to the darkness. It is a love that brings a promise of peace and joy. The awesome thing is that this love that comes to live among us, and within us, is a love that is for all people. The joy that we celebrate this evening is one that is with us at all times and for everyone. For in Jesus’ coming down to earth, we are promised salvation and a grace and love that knows no end.
As God comes home to us, may we celebrate in this Christmas season a love that is beyond measure. And may we too celebrate our own homecomings. Welcome home!
Glory to God in the highest heaven!