Friday, December 24, 2021

Sermon: "Let Us Build a House: Invited Home", Christmas Eve Message (December 24, 2021)

(This is the fifth sermon in our Advent and Christmas series, "Let Us Build a House", based on the Advent theme from A Sanctified Art. The others can be found herehere, and here - the third was given by a guest preacher.)


December is a month full of invitations. We receive them, of course, but we also extend them. In fact, around Christmas, we sometimes find ourselves inviting people to our home who otherwise wouldn’t “make the cut”. Normally, bringing your work home with you is stressful, but in December, some people find themselves inviting their coworkers to their annual Christmas party. The phenomenon of “Christmas Home Tours” inspires people to open up their homes to hundreds of complete strangers who want to admire their festive decorations. Several colleges have programs where locals can “adopt” a student who isn’t able to travel back to their own home for the holidays. In fact, someone from this very community (who shall remain nameless) admitted to me that his sister used to bring random people home for Christmas when she was in college, which he always hated. But for many people, that’s just what you do at Christmastime.

Of course, whether or not you invite coworkers or students or complete strangers into your house during this time of year, we all recognize that Christmas itself began as an exercise in welcoming an unusual guest home: Jesus. We are here in this place right now, worshiping together, because some 2000-odd years ago, God chose to make a home among us mortals, and we recognize that as an occasion to celebrate. All throughout Advent, we’ve been preparing for this unorthodox arrival by learning what it takes to build a home worthy of a divine king. There is still plenty of work to be done before the Kin(g)dom has fully arrived, but we at least know what it will take to get there. We may not be finished, but we’re ready to invite God home.

Now, let’s be honest with ourselves here: the Jesus that we’re inviting home tonight isn’t what you’d call the ideal houseguest. We just read all the messy circumstances of his birth: his mother and human father were unmarried at the time, the circumstances of his conception were extremely unusual, Mary and Joseph would have all been dirty and grumpy and tired after traveling all the way from Nazareth to Bethlehem—and that’s before Mary went into labor. Aside from all that, God didn’t arrive as a fully-grown man; Jesus was a baby, and like any baby, he was loud and messy and vulnerable and needy. And yet, every year, we joyfully open our hearts to this Christ-child and invite him to make a home among us. We welcome him even in these non-ideal circumstances. Because that’s just what you do at Christmas.

But unlike the party-attending coworkers, unlike the decoration-peeping strangers, unlike the displaced college students, we can’t invite Jesus into our home at Christmas, only to rescind the invitation once the season is over. We don’t get to invite Jesus the baby in, but reject Jesus the table-flipper, or Jesus the status-quo-rejector, or Jesus the other-cheek-turner. We can’t put all this work into building God’s kin(g)dom on earth only close the doors to Jesus once it’s not enjoyable for us anymore.

Because, in truth, God’s kin(g)dom isn’t “our” home at all. It’s the home that we’ve built together with God as the architect, the home that God has invited US to be a part of. And when Jesus comes home, he doesn’t just bring the “meek and mild” version of himself; he brings the version that his mother Mary describes, who casts down the mighty from their thrones; the version that his cousin John describes, who baptizes with the Holy Spirit and with fire; the version that John’s father Zechariah describes, who’s filled with deep compassion; the version that he himself describes, who brings chaos and confusion.[1] When he comes home, he brings all versions of himself—and he throws the door open wide to anyone who’s willing to welcome them all.

“Unto you is born this day in the city of David a savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.” On this day, too, is born a troublemaker, a rabble-rouser, a rule-breaker…and he’s inviting you to join him in his home. The offer doesn’t expire on December 26th, or on New Year’s Day, or Epiphany—it’s a standing invitation for you to join him, to learn from him, to live like him. We are invited home: how will we respond? Amen.


[1] Luke 1:52, 3:16, 1:78, & 21:25.

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