“Invited Home” December 24, 2021 Christmas Eve
I think we can arrive to this moment, the sparkling and beautiful evening before Christmas with its pageantry and carols and lights and sometimes believe that the Christmas story is a story of perfect endings. In reality, though, it’s a story of rough beginnings. Don’t let the gleam of a 2021 Christmas deceive you. God decided to send a part of Godself into the world and be human alongside of us and instead of trumpets and fanfare and a red carpet, the world replied with a “meh, you can go be bornin that animal stable over there.” We have gotten so used to a glamorized nativity that it’s easy to forget that Mary was an unwed teenager when she got pregnant; she and Joseph were only traveling to Bethlehem because they lived in a country occupied by a foreign enemy who demanded they be counted; we glorify the stable now, but have you smelled the inside of an actual stable? And then when it came time to share the news of this amazing birth of God into the world, shepherds, who were at the bottom of the society and magi who were foreigners not even of the same religion were the ones who showed up to spread the good news. Let’s just call it for what it is. God was not invited into this world in the way we might expect, but God came anyway and made do with less than perfect circumstances. Not only that, God took those imperfect, complicated circumstances and thrived in them. Why? Because God flipped the script. We were just talking about little Mortimer and his search for a perfect home. His first “perfect” home ended up being Jesus stable, which, I guess if you’re a mouse, is an improvement. Once he realized it was Jesus’ and who Jesus was he selflessly gave that one up and found another one. Turns out he did all right by finding the gingerbread house. I don’t about you but gingerbread house construction has become a tradition in my house. There’s something so fun for both the children and the adults about making and decorating a house out of the things you have in your kitchen. Now, usually these are bright, colorful candies and snow-white icing. But sometimes when things are less than perfect, you have to make do. If you’re ever bored, type in creative gingerbread houses into google and the internet does not disappoint. You’ve got to be careful, because creative or “making do” gingerbread house searches can pretty quickly tread into the waters of posts labeled as “gingerbread house epic fails.” This is because we are pretty well conditioned to believe that if it isn’t perfect or doesn’t fit into our narrow understanding of “what it should be” then it missed the mark. So it is with our lives and our homes and our relationship with God. We don’t have to be perfect in order to show up in church. Contrary to what you might see in the magazines, we also don’t have to have an immaculately decorated house in order to have a good Christmas. Presents don’t have to be piled high under the tree to make or break Christmas. Our lives don’t have to be amazing and put together for God to still show up. Why? Because God flips the script. Jesus had no invitation to come into this world. This world was nowhere near ready to give him the welcome he deserved. But he came anyway. And once Jesus arrived into that forgotten stable in the midst of a foreign occupation, in a world where the poor and marginalized were his people, he turned the world upside down by making it his mission to make sure no one ever felt left out again. He preached that the last would be first and the lost would be found. He was drawn to the left out, the sick, the forlorn and the messed up. And it was with those people and in their less-than-perfect circumstances he made his home and invited the rest of the world to join him. “What a gift it is to have a God who does not wait on our invitation. what a gift it is to have a God who can’t imagine being anywhere but here.” So if your life is messy or complicated or feeling imperfect in any way, please know that your life is a Christmas life. Your life is the life Jesus came to be next to and where he makes his home. That is good news. That is a Christmas story that doesn’t need to gleam and shine, you just need to believe that it can be true and believe in a God that comes to bring us close to home.