Home for Christmas - Observer Message - December 2011

"And everyone went to his own town…" (Luke 2:3).

Getting home for Christmas is pretty important to a lot of people. It‘s a tradition we have all but immortalized. Our hearts go out to those who for some reason or another cannot get home for Christmas. Some have to work, others are sick, still others can‘t afford it. Parents have died, a marriage has broken and the family split apart, or family members are institutionalized.

We hope that you will make it home for Christmas, that you will be where you want to be, and with the people you want to be with. If this is not possible, and in many cases it will not be possible, it does not mean that your Christmas or that of your loved ones will be ruined. As a pastor, I have never been to my home (where I grew up) for Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. It is a part of my job to be at my church where I am a pastor. We just celebrate together as a family after December 25th. Being home for Christmas does not depend on being with certain people in a certain place (my son, Darin, is in China). Home is where Christ is and when we have Christ, we are home for Christmas no matter where we are.

If geographic locations were that important, we would almost have to fly to Bethlehem to be home for Christmas. That‘s where it all happened many years ago. Few, if any, of us ever spend Christmas in Bethlehem. That does not mean that we are not home. Martin Luther once said, "The Word is the cradle in which we find our Savior." As near as we are to the Word of God, so near are we to Christ and to Christmas.

Mary and Joseph were not at home the night history was made in Bethlehem. If it had been their decision alone, they would not have traveled to Bethlehem, not in Mary‘s condition. But Caesar Augustus had issued a decree that compelled them to go. This was God‘s way of getting them to the place where the Savior was to be born in fulfillment of Micah‘s prophecy. So Mary and Joseph were gone from home that first Christmas when the miracle of the ages took place.

Think about the shepherds. They didn‘t have the night off just because history was in the making. They were "living out in the fields…keeping watch over their flocks…" They were away from home, away from family on that holy night.

The angels were on duty that first Christmas, too. They left their heavenly home to "bring…good news of great joy that will be for all the people." They announced, "Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord."

Did Mary and Joseph, the Shepherds, or the angels feel left out because they had to be away from home on Christmas? Quite the contrary! Mary "treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart." The shepherds returned "glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen." The angels returned to heaven, but not before they "praised God, saying, 'Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests.'"

Home is where Christ is. Mary and Joseph, the shepherds and the angels all had Christ. All of them were home for Christmas.

Even more striking is this: The miracle of Christmas would not have been possible at all if Jesus had insisted on staying home. We today can enjoy Christmas with family and friends because the Son of God was willing to leave His Father‘s home in heaven and the glory that was His from eternity.

Think this through! The Son of God was willing to exchange the glories of heaven for the sounds and smells of a stable, for the company of weak and timid disciples, for the hatred and scorn of a hostile world. Jesus was willing to come to earth to become our Brother, to take our place under the law, to suffer our punishment, to die our death, to endure our hell!

We do not begin to appreciate the miracle of Christmas until we remember that Jesus left His home, because we were far from home. We were lost. We were homeless. Sin made us orphans. The Son of God came into our world that we might have a home again – now and forever. Jesus was born in a stable so that we might live in the splendor of the Father‘s house forever. Because Jesus left His home, we need never be homeless again.

Jesus promised, "Where two or three come together in My name, there am I with them," (Matthew 28:20). As often as we hear and study Holy Scripture, as often as we read and meditate on the Word of God, we are home where we belong.

Jesus also said, "Surely I will be with you always." We are children of God. Our baptism is a daily reminder that we are members of His family. Each time we receive the Lord‘s Supper, we are welcomed home again and given a foretaste of what it will be like to celebrate Christmas forever.

Being home for Christmas is important, but that‘s not really a matter of geography. Home is where Christ is. So no matter where you are, no matter whom you are with, if you have Christ, you are home for Christmas – this year, next year, and forever! Merry Christmas!

Pastor Rodney Warnecke