Christmas Eve: Luke 2:1-20
“I’ll be home for Christmas; you can count on me. I’ll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams.” So, where do you call home, really? And, of course, are you there for Christmas? My guess is we have a mixed bag tonight: some of us are back home for the holidays, or perhaps home has come to us—we are back where our memories were made, back with those we know best, and love most—and some of us are not.
And actually we will find tonight that even for the Holy Family, for Mary and Joseph and Mary’s Son, Christmas is a bit of a mixed bag. They are back home for Christmas, back in Joseph’s home town, his ancestral fatherland. They are home, and yet not. They are welcomed, and yet not. They have glory in the highest and peace and joy, and yet they have accommodations in a stable a hundred miles away from where they live. Christmas can be like that. For us human beings, sometimes Christmas can be like that.
And that is an important point of St. Luke’s Christmas story: from the very beginning Christmas was, for better and for worse, a story of human beings. They had names like Augustus and Quirinius, like Zechariah and Elisabeth and John, and Mary and Joseph.
And these human beings are from real, human, places. Joseph is from Nazareth, and Nazareth is in Galilee, and that matters. He takes Mary from Nazareth in Galilee to Bethlehem in Judah to be registered, because Joseph’s father’s father’s father’s father’s father’s father was an ancient king named David, and that matters.
It was important to Joseph that he was a son of David, and to Mary that she, like Joseph, was of the tribe of Judah. And it is important to you whose son or daughter you are, and whose grandson, or great granddaughter, or great-great...or great-great-great. It is important who you come from, and it is important where you call home.
It may seem strange to say in a day when our world seems so small, and when we seem to move so effortlessly from one thing, and one place, to the next, but it is important where you call home. Facebook and Instagram and Skype can’t change that, though they want you to think that they can. These things do not make a difference; they cannot make you more than what you are: a human being, a person, with a place to call home.
Christmas on the other hand, does make a difference. But it makes a difference in a completely different way. This night if we look honestly at our lives, and at our world, we can see that the problems are real: there are those without hope, those confused about their place in the world, and even their very selves. And if we are a bit more honest, we can see that the problem is us. We have not given hope; we are guilty of being quicker to write off than to embrace. We have been impatient and self-protective, and guilty of quick fixes and trendy solutions.
And this is where Christmas is so dazzling by comparison. Christmas does make a difference. Tonight, the world is changed, but not by what is generic or trendy or automated. The world is changed tonight by God taking a certain place, with certain people, and calling that place his home.
Jesus Christ is born to you this day in the City of David. He is born of the Blessed Virgin Mary, born of the house and lineage of David, and now God Himself–very God of very God, light of light, begotten and not made—is from somewhere. Just like each and every one of you, he has a mother and a last name, and a place to call home.
You may know that the word Christmas is a combination word. It comes from two words: ‘Christ’ and ‘Mass’. ‘Mass’ is just the Latin word for the Divine Service. So the word ‘Christmas’ originally referred, not so much to a date on a calendar, as it referred to a church service. To ‘celebrate Christmas’ meant rather simply to celebrate a Divine Service for the birth of Christ—that he was born as the Son of God and of Mary, from heaven and from earth.
You will hear it tonight in the song of the angels: “Glory to God in the highest and peace to his people on earth with whom he is pleased.” Heaven has come down to dwell in earth, and tomorrow’s Christmas Divine Service is its perfect expression. Two millennia ago, Jesus dwelt in Mary. Tomorrow he will dwell in you. It will be Christmas all over again: it will be a Christ Mass.
And in this way—this intimate, personal, and deeply human way—Jesus wants to give you a home. He wants to commune with you, to abide with you in the midst of your life and whatever good or bad, confusion or clarity, frustration or joy that may bring. Jesus wants this to be where you call home: this altar, this sanctuary full of these real people, this Holy Family.
Tomorrow morning is especially when we claim St. Luke’s Christmas story as our story: Jesus’ family as our family, his life as our life, his death as our death, his resurrection as our resurrection; it is where we come together all over again to claim and confess that wherever Jesus is—in heaven or on earth; back then, right now, or forever after—that is our home.
And that is what matters this Christmas. In Jesus Christ, God is from somewhere: from Bethlehem Ephratha, from the line of David, from the womb of the Virgin Mary. These things he chose in order to choose you, and to build for you an everlasting home with him: his Church, in which, even here in this place, even this year, he is born for you.