1:39 “In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, 40 where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42 and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43 And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? 44 For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.” 46 And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. 50 His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. 51 He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. 52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; 53 he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. 54 He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, 55 according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.” (Luke 1:39-55, NRSV)
Let us pray: God of promise, you have given us a sign of your love through the gift of Jesus Christ, our Savior, who was promised from ages past. We believe as Joseph did the message of your presence whispered by an angel, and offer our prayers for your world, confident of your care and mercy for all creation. Amen.
Music has always been important in the life of the church because it speaks to our hearts and it moves our souls, but music this time of year seems even more important. Think about the Christmas carols we sing. We know many of them by heart: “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” “O Come all ye Faithful,” “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” “Silent Night,” and “Joy to the World!” Just to name a few. Every one of us has our favorites and when we hear or sing those carols it makes Christmas for us.
It is not only sacred music and Christmas carols that touch our hearts and move our souls it is also popular music. Apparently the number one song on the secular list of Christmas songs is “White Christmas.” I learned this week that is the most popular song ever written; it has been recorded more, sung more, played more, listened to more than any other piece of music ever. The most famous rendition of the song is Bing Crosby, singing “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas, just like the ones I used to know…” It is that line that gets us: just like the ones I used to know…” It takes us back in time, to those special Christmases of our past. The great American composer, Irving Berlin, who was actually Jewish, wrote the song in 1941. It became very popular during the Second World War, when so many young men were off at war separated from their families and loved ones, far away from home. “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas, just like the ones I used to know…”
It is amazing the emotions and memories the song evokes, especially thoughts of home. We remember Christmases past and what we did; decorating the tree, making cookies, cooking and eating a huge Christmas dinner, opening presents, visiting family, reading special books or watching “It’s a wonderful life.” We all have memories. You can close your eyes and still see certain people in certain places and remember what they did and what they said. It is the power of memory. The sights, sounds, and smells of Christmas, Christmas past, Christmas at Home. “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas, just like the ones I used to know…”
Think about the songs we sing about Christmas at home. There is Bing Crosby’s “I’ll Be Home for Christmas, if only in my dreams…” Perry Como’s “There is no place like home for the Holidays.”
No matter what our situation in life, we all experience homesickness. Homesickness is built into us. Saint Augustine prayed so long ago, “Our hearts are restless, O God, until we find rest in thee.” There is a deep longing in each of us for a place we belong, a place to call home. Scripture tells us that we are all wanderers, exiles, all of us looking for a future home. Walter Brueggeman writes in his Old Testament commentary that the basic theme of the Old Testament is the people of God longing to go home.
Here we are a few days before Christmas, some of you are preparing to travel home, wherever home happens to be, others of you will have your family come home to you, and some of us can’t go home. No matter which group you are in, we all have a longing for home. We all want to be “Home for Christmas, if only in our dreams…” It is more than a nostalgic journey to return to the home of our childhood, or a highly romanticized Norman Rockwell idea of Christmas past. As attractive as that is for us this time of year to go back and savor those memories of the past, I suggest that our texts and the angel Gabriel is inviting us to look forward. Our home is before us.
Christmas is about God who is for us. Christmas is about gifts we did not earn or work for or deserve. Christmas is about the love of God who came to dwell among us and assures us that we have a home. Christmas is about the conviction that in this birth of Jesus of Nazareth in Bethlehem, born of a women who was scared to death when she was told that she would have this child; who was amazed that God would work through her, such a lowly person; that God came among us to show us the power and the reality of His love, that God came to forgive us for all we have done that we think is unforgivable; that God came to provide us a place where we know we belong, God came to give us a home –with him.
A young couple, a man with a heavily pregnant fiancé, travel many miles to return home, and when they arrived, they made a home, a birthplace in a cow stall. They transformed that manger into a home that you and I are invited to return.
Home is where Christ is. That is the home we are invited to, regardless of where we are or what we are doing. We are invited home. Home is there, that simple manger, it is where we know that we belong, where we know the strong, saving Grace of God, the One who created the heavens and the earth, He is the One who loves the world so much that he gave his only begotten son born into the world; loves the world so much that He never gave up on the world; loves us so much that he will never give up on us; and he continues to work for the redemption, the reconciliation and the peace of the world in unexpected and surprising ways.
That is where we are invited this Christmas. We are invited to find our way home where we know that we are loved, where we are claimed and welcomed by God. Finding our way home to that place where we will never be forgotten.
My friends, my hope and prayer for each of us this Christmas is that you and I will find our way home to Christ, who is our dwelling place, now and forever. Amen.
Let us pray: