Sunday, July 24, 2022

Sermon: “Invited Home”, Christmas in July (July 24, 2022)


Every Christmas Eve, I preach a brief message that ties our Advent theme together. But with so many people traveling to be with their families in December (especially after two years of extremely limited gatherings), I find that the people who receive my Christmas Eve message are often not the same people who have walked with me throughout Advent. Of course, I write the message with this in mind, but since the gospel we hear at Christmas is always worth repeating, we might as well revisit these words now, seven months later. So let’s listen again and take this opportunity to evaluate how well we’ve lived this Christmas message through the rest of the year so far. As a reminder, our theme for Advent was “Let us Build a House”, and we explored what it takes to build a home worthy of the long-awaited divine king.

December is usually a month full of invitations. We receive them, of course, but we also extend them. In fact, around Christmastime, we sometimes find ourselves inviting people into our home who otherwise wouldn’t “make the cut” (so to speak). Normally, bringing 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 just so that they can 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 the holiday season, we all recognize that Christmas itself began as an exercise in welcoming a most 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 prepared for this unorthodox arrival by learning what it takes to build a home worthy of a divine king. There is, even now, plenty of work to be done before the Kindom has fully arrived, but we at least know what it will take to get there. We may not be finished building, but we’re ready to invite God home.

Now, let’s be honest with ourselves here: the Jesus that we’re inviting home isn’t what you’d call an 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 all 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 kindom on earth only close the doors to Jesus once it’s not fun anymore.

Because, in truth, God’s kindom 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 in the Magnificat, 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 in HIS song, who’s filled with deep compassion; the version that he himself describes, who brings chaos and confusion.[1] When Jesus 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 didn’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, even now, invited home: how will we respond? Amen.

Friends, in a moment, we’ll hear the offertory, a time during worship to reflect on what we have to offer God in response to God’s many gracious gifts in our lives. As always, you’re invited to make a financial contribution to the church’s ministry in the plates at the back of the sanctuary and doors, through the mail, or on our website. But today, let’s also use this time to reflect on how well we’ve each welcomed Jesus with our actions during the “off-season”. Have we only invited Christ the harmless infant into our hearts, or have we also included Christ the troublemaker, the rabble-rouser, the rule-breaker? Have we truly WELCOMED him, or just assumed he’d find his way on his own? How often have we turned away the guests that he brings with him – the poor, the hungry, the broken-hearted, the despised, the lost? How do we make him, and all our beloved siblings that he brings with him, feel truly at home? Let us take a moment to meditate on this.


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

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