This time of year, there is a strong emphasis on “home.”
It’s great to have our college students and many others back again.
Many times I’ll meet people after Christmas Mass
who are strangers to me;
then I learn that while they grew up here and moved away,
this parish is home to them – to you –
and it is I who am the stranger.
Many years ago, a singer named Perry Como sang a song,
“Home for the Holidays.”
Like so many Christmas songs, it was catchy and made you feel good,
but otherwise, it doesn’t seem to say much.
Yet the more I thought about it,
I realized there is a lot more to that idea of “home” and Christmas.
It isn’t just some of us who are away from home.
Every single one of us is.
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
And he created a place for humanity – to be home with him.
The Book of Genesis calls that the “garden.”
That’s a good name; that sounds like someplace we want to be.
As we know, our first parents were not content to stay there.
Their lack of trust led them to sin and they chose a path away;
They left the Garden; they left home.
And all the rest of the story is God longing to bring us home!
He called to Noah, to Abraham, to Jacob, to Moses.
God made covenants with them, to give them – and us –
What the cold world of time cannot give us:
Forgiveness of sins, reconciliation, and eternal life.
In the Gospel of John, while Jesus is talking to his fellow Jews,
He says something odd:
“Your Father Abraham saw my day and rejoiced in it.”
What could that mean?
It means this:
That when God called out to Abraham, saying, “I’m here, I’m here!”
In that call was a promise that God would one day be here –
for Abraham and everyone else – not just in a prophecy or ritual,
but in flesh and blood.
In other words, it’s always been about the Incarnation:
God becoming one of us.
And it’s always been about the Cross,
because what does it mean to say God is with us,
if it doesn’t include the full measure of suffering and death?
Even so: dying with us is cold consolation, if that’s the end.
I’m dying, you’re dying? We’re all dead.
So it was always about Resurrection, which means,
Not Jesus rising and escaping our humanity,
But Jesus rising and living, forever, in our humanity!
What a way for God to make his home with us!
And as those annoying commercials always say, “Wait: there’s more!”
God came and made his home with us, in our exile;
Always with us, often hidden, often ignored;
Or else, despised and rejected: on the Cross, and down to the present.
This is his birthday. How many will have a great party, but ignore him?
How sad that so many people know the word, “Christmas,”
but not what it refers to?
What good is a “season of lights”
That is about no more than electricity or candles?
God came to make his home with us, for one more purpose:
To bring you and me home: home to him.
That is “joy to the world”;
Only God’s life filling our lives can mean “Peace on earth.”
And what you and I see before our eyes –
what the prophets and patriarchs
could only glimpse darkly, as in a mirror –
that is what makes us fall silent on this (Christmas) night.
This church, this place,
this circle of familiar faces, is our home – for now.
Yet we are not yet home, and God is not content to leave us here.
With baptism, you and I became citizens, not of this place,
But of that Place – of heaven.
In the incarnation, God became man;
By faith in Jesus, following him, you and I will become God!
Sharers in everything God has to share, even his own infinite life!
All the sacraments serve to restore us and to prepare us,
to make us long all the more for our true home,
the home of which this home is a shadow and a promise.
I am so glad you are here. We are all glad to be together.
We all try so hard to make Christmas special,
to make everything sparkle and glow;
As hard as we try, it is never enough. It never can be.
Christmas isn’t about satisfying our longing,
but rather making us hunger and thirst all the more:
We want to go home!
To be with Jesus, not just for a few golden hours, but forever.