Any time of the year is a hard time to be homeless. Any time of year is hard to be a traveler. But doesn’t it seem that the idea of being homeless or a traveler during Christmas is a little harder to swallow? Shouldn’t everyone be home for Christmas? Shouldn’t everyone have a home for Christmas?
And yet, tonight, we will hear of how a young woman and her husband are forced to travel and cannot find a welcoming place, let alone be home to birth their child. The very beginning of Christmas starts with a couple far from home, stranded and without shelter. Jesus without a home.
But it actually began earlier. This is not the first time that God would struggle to be welcomed and housed with humanity. From even the beginning, God wanted to be “home” with us- a garden to enjoy and wander together. And even as late as David, God still had no home among humanity. God spoke to David through the prophet Nathan and all but begged David for a home, the Temple, a place to belong. Even though David was a mess personally, God loved David and wanted to find home with him and with the people of Israel. So David said, “yes.” In return, God blessed David and his lineage.
Leap forward a few hundred years and we have Mary, who is nothing like David- she is young, innocent, and obviously a thinker but who has little to offer of her own. She has no kingdom or power, no prestige or reputation. All she has is herself; her own heart and mind. And again, God asks permission to have a home, asking Mary if she is willing to be home for God’s own self to grow and be nurtured here on earth. And Mary said, “yes, let it be so with me.” In return, God favored her and blessed her.
If only it were that simple. If you have ever lived with another human, you know we never seem to have the same goals, ideals, or even cleaning standards. When it comes to home and family, we tend to overlook a lot of that on our good days. We show grace- making allowance for each person to be authentic and comfortable. Because home is a place where everyone is supposed to feel safe and welcome, where we can to walk around in pj’s-where we can know and be known. Home is supposed to be where we belong- always. Home is comfy and busy and peaceful and messy sometimes.
Sometimes our needs overlap and don’t match up at all- in my house it may be my need to watch sappy Christmas movies and knit butting up against my husbands need to watch a raucous game of hockey. But we stay- and we work through the difficult parts and delve even deeper into what it means to be in relationship with one another. We acknowledge the warts, the stinky feet, and the chin hairs. We acknowledge the singing in the shower, the dirty dishes left in the sink, and dirty clothes on the bathroom floor. We also acknowledge the gift of a shared meal, a snuggle on the couch, an energetic wii-danceoff and the hugs good morning and goodnight.
Because with the messy, comes something quite lovely. A deep-seated sense of wellness and belonging that cannot be easily uprooted. And don’t we all crave that? Maybe that is what it is to be created in the image of God?
So I wonder then, what gave David and for that fact, young Mary the courage to say, “yes, I will build home for you, I will BE home for you”? How did they get to “yes”? To start with, they each knew who God was. God was stranger to neither David nor Mary. Each had been having regular conversation with God through prayer and worship. Each came from a lineage of strong and faithful people who showed them how to be in relationship with God on a daily basis through prayers, offering, and worship. So when God asks them such an intimate question as “hey, wanna move in together?” They already knew the one with whom they are making a commitment. They knew what it meant to be hospitable to God because God had already been hospitable and welcoming to them.
Secondly, they welcomed the messiness that they surely knew would happen. There is no way for God to inhabit our world and our lives without a mess- Professor Karoline Lewis points out, the annunciation to Mary helps us remember that God becoming human should always unsettle and upset, especially when we have settled into times when we try to predict God’s arrival or determine God’s favor. God never quite fits into the box we like to put God in.
And when we welcome the unsettling ways that God shows up, the discomfort of being shaped and reformed like a pregnant woman’s body, when we lean into the messy nature of our family together when we recognize the value of the change and the messiness of relationship and we embrace it instead of fighting it- we find a new joy, a new way of seeing the world through the lens of bringing about goodness and life. Yes, it hurts to change and grow- and even to witness change, because even in witnessing, we are changed too. And it is amazing and life-giving. It is good and hard.
David welcomed God into the world and gave God a home in the temple. Mary welcomed Christ into her body and gave him birth into this world. And you, you can choose to be the temple in which the Holy Spirit remains in residence and dances with you through the good and bad of life.
It is still advent. We are still preparing the way- and you have a choice. Will you open the doors, roll up the rugs and invite the Triune God into your life with joy? Whether innocent virgin woman or worldly powerful king, will you “be” home? Will you let your understanding of others and the call to be home to the whole of creation become your purpose and life? Will you welcome the Christ child in the words of our beloved Mary, with a resounding and joyous “yes! let it be to me according to your will”? Will you say yes to the mess? There is blessing awaiting you. Do not be afraid- for you are highly favored.