So Far from Home – A Christmas Homily

Wednesday, December 24th, 2014 – Christmas Eve
Gower Christian Church, Gower, MO
Scripture: Luke 2:1-20
Hymns: “O Come, All Ye Faithful”, “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”, “Silent Night”

“So Far from Home”
Eighty miles.
You really can’t go very far in eighty miles. Halfway to Council Bluffs. Three quarters of the way to Clinton. Just to the other side of Lawrence. Heck, on a good day, you could probably cover an eighty mile distance on I-70 in an hour. Just don’t tell Zack Craft.
But think about if you didn’t have a car. Think about if the roads weren’t paved. If all you had was a mule, and the roads were barely dirt and gravel tracks. Eighty miles would seem like the other side of the world.
Eighty miles is about how far it is from Nazareth to Bethlehem.
I bet that a lot of you have been far from home on Christmas. So many different circumstances can conspire to make it happen. Maybe you’re celebrating Christmas with extended family, but you’d rather be at home with just your own. Maybe a freak snowstorm has stranded you in an airport in the middle of nowhere and the next flight isn’t going to be until Friday. Maybe you went to college either across the country or even overseas, and there was just no practical way for you to get home. Maybe you’re in the military. My friend Megan’s little brother, Austin, for example. In two weeks, he’ll graduate from boot camp at Parris Island, a full-fledged United States Marine, but tomorrow, Christmas Day, he’ll still be a recruit, still training, far from home on Christmas.
Imagine, now, if you will, that that trip far from home also happens to be when you’re about 8.99 months pregnant. You’re about ready to pop like an over-inflated balloon, but the government, in all their wisdom, has just informed you and your husband that you have to make that eighty mile trek so that they know how many people there are in certain areas, and how much they can get away with taxing your wages for the next period of time. That’s four days on the back of a mule, over rough roads, just so that some bored Roman clerk can check off your husband’s name, annotate “wife and one child (boy)”, and send you on your merry way back home.
If you think about it, though, this was the perfect way for Jesus’ life to begin. Nowhere near his home. Born and placed in a trough from which animals ate. For a man who would spend the duration of his earthly ministry as a nomadic rabbi, it seems that being born homeless was quite appropriate. For a man who would celebrate his last night on earth prior to crucifixion by breaking bread and telling his disciples, “This is my body, broken for you,” it seems that being born into a feeding place was quite appropriate.
Sometimes, being far from home means being exactly where God needs you to be. Joseph and Mary probably didn’t want to be in Bethlehem on that fateful night. But the Messiah was to be the descendant of King David, born in the city of his birth – Bethlehem. The prophet Micah had said that this little town would be the place where the Messiah would be found.
The hymn says that we wonder as we wander, out under the sky, and perhaps sometimes that wondering turns to, “Why me?” Why am I stuck in this airport? Why did I choose to go to college here? What on earth made me think that the Marines were a good idea?
Perhaps the Lord has plans for you. Maybe God has led you to this place for a very specific purpose. It’s possible that this place, this time – this is where you’re going to find a rebirth, life anew. Maybe something is going to happen that will give new direction and meaning to your life.
And then again, maybe nothing at all is going to happen. But even then, think of this – how much happier will you be when you do finally arrive at home after your long journey?
The life and journey of Jesus Christ began far, far from home. But the good news of his birth is that we can now be at home wherever we are. Our Lord enfolds us all in a divine embrace, and so no matter where we go, we are always at home with God.
Amen, and Merry Christmas.

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