Christmas at Home

“I’ll be home for Christmas.

You can plan on me.

Please have snow and mistletoe

And presents on the tree…”

It was summer, 1943—the dead center of the Second World War, although no one really knew it yet.  Allied troops had conquered Sicily and set their sights on Italy.  Russian troops began to push Nazi forces west across the great European frontier.  A glimmer of hope appeared for those waiting for loved ones around the world.

In August of that year Walter Kent and James Gannon published the song, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.”  In October, Bing Crosby recorded the song.  In four weeks, the song was number three in America.  The lyrics expressed the hopes of every American soldier and the dreams of every waiting family member.

“Christmas Eve will find me

Where my love light gleams.

I’ll be home for Christmas,

If only in my dreams.”

In the end, it is a bittersweet song.  Being home for Christmas may be past my power.  At best, home for Christmas may be a fond dream—and nothing more.

Tonight is another Christmas away from home.  This is literally true for hundreds of thousands serving in our military.  It is also Christmas away from home for many more.

This is the first Christmas apart for those who have lost loved ones this year.  It is Christmas away from home for families broken by conflict and divorce.  This is Christmas away from home for the sick, for those in prison, and for those enslaved by addictions.

Christmas must be away from home when you have no home.  That is the case on tsunami-ravaged coasts, in hurricane-flattened neighborhoods, and on the streets of Lincoln, Nebraska.

“I’ll be home for Christmas.

You can plan on me.

Please have snow and mistletoe

And presents on the tree…”

That first Christmas, Jesus wasn’t at home either.  At least, he wasn’t among family and friends.  Mary and Joseph may have appreciated a little time away from the disapproving stares and damning whispers that dogged their every step. 

They were helpless victims of an imperial system that cared nothing about their comfort and everything about their coins.  Jesus found himself in a borrowed bed, surrounded by strangers, cooing to cattle.  He wasn’t at home.

“Christmas Eve will find me

Where my love light gleams.

I’ll be home for Christmas,

If only in my dreams.”

Something, however, is missing here.  Jesus wasn’t in Nazareth.  That much is true.  But Jesus Christ is certainly at home!  The Gospel of John writes the headline for this story.  “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…full of grace and truth.”

We don’t come home to Christmas.  Christmas comes home to us!

In American culture, Christmas is always the silly season.  It is filled with confusing images, mixed metaphors and contradictory values.  Everyone wants a piece of Christmas, but that sort of Christmas offers no peace.

This Christmas season has been sillier than most because it has been hijacked once again by politicians of all stripes.  But we Christians have an opportunity.  We have the opportunity to reclaim Christmas for Jesus Christ.  Christmas isn’t defined by trees or gifts or manger scenes or Disney movies.  Those are all things WE do.

We don’t come home to Christmas.  Christmas comes home to us!

Revelation twenty-one puts it better than I ever could:

“See, the home of God is among mortals.

God will dwell with them;

They will be God’s peoples, and God indeed will be with them;

God will wipe away ever tear from their eyes.

Death will be no more;

Mourning and crying and pain will be no more.

For the first things have passed away.”

We don’t come home to Christmas.  Christmas comes home to us!

Kathryn Koob grew up on a farm southeast of Waterloo, Iowa.  She was an American embassy professional.  On November fourth, 1979, she and fifty-one other embassy staff were taken hostage during the Iranian revolution.

Katy and her colleagues were imprisoned for one Christmas.  They sat in bondage for another.  During that second Christmas, Katy and other hostages were allowed to send a satellite message home.

Her nephews and nieces loved their Aunt Katy.  She sent a message to them.  She reminded them of the Christmas carols they sang together.  Then she sang “Away in a Manger.”  Verse three brought tears to her eyes and to mine.

“Be near me, Lord Jesus; I ask you to say

Close by me forever and love me, I pray.

Bless all the dear children in thy tender care

And fit us for heaven to live with you there.”

Kathryn Koob understood that HER location didn’t make it Christmas.  Christmas depends on Jesus Christ’s location.  His location is right here—within us, among us, and around us—right now.

We don’t come home to Christmas.  Christmas comes home to us!

In this silly season, we Christians must be absolutely clear.  The Lord of all Creation has freely chosen to live in us, among us, and around us.  God’s home is right here and right now.  This is no dream.  This is no fond wish.  This is the reality that makes all the difference in the world.

Titus three makes it clear:  “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all…He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.”

I always think of Dickens’ story, A Christmas Carol, as I prepare for Christmas.  I can’t help but think for a moment about how it ends.  Christmas came to live at Scrooge’s house every day of the year.  Dickens put it this way:

“Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did not die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.

He had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle, ever afterwards; and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!”

We don’t come home to Christmas.  Christmas comes home to us!  May the final verse of “O Little Town of Bethlehem” be our Christmas prayer.

“O holy Child of Bethlehem, Descend to us we pray;

Cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today.

We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell;

Oh, come to us; abide with us, our Lord Immanuel.”

We don’t come home to Christmas.  Christmas comes home to us!  Amen.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s