The days leading up to Christmas are among the busiest travel days of the year. Whether it be by car or by plane, everyone is scrambling to be home for this special day. No one wants to be far away from loved ones or alone on Christmas day. The bright faces of so many of you who are home from school or returning to us after having moved far away fills this place with joy. You are home again and we are blessed to have you.
What makes this day important is that we set it aside to mark the mighty work that God has done for us. Just as we do not like to be far from our loved ones, God does not want to be far from us. He traveled through the heavens to take on a body like ours. To be close to us, He became a man in the person of Jesus, the baby born in Bethlehem. With the birth of this baby, God has made His home among us. Saint John tells us: “the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us, and we saw His glory.”
Not only has He come to live among us, He has come to gather a family around Himself. He was born, the Son of God, so that we also might be daughters and sons of God. Saint John tells us: “...to those who did accept Him He gave power to become children of God”. He was born so that we could be born again. This new life that we find in Jesus is not like our human life which has an end. Rather it is an everlasting life that begins with our baptism, sustains us throughout our years in this world and carries us into the glory of heaven.
Because He was born for us, we need not live in the darkness of despair, ignorance and sin. Rather we live with the joy of knowing that our God loves us and is close to us. We live with the hope that no matter what challenges and difficulties we have experienced in our lives, our inheritance as children of God is awaiting us in heaven. We serve others out of the conviction that they too are loved and cared for by our Heavenly Father.
Sadly, not everyone can be joyful on this day. There are many here today who have lost loved ones over the past year. Many of us for whatever reason are far from family members and friends with whom we wish we could share this day. And still others of us feel so overwhelmed by the burdens of life that we cannot open our hearts to the joy of this day. Though the light has come into the world, we still feel trapped in the darkness of depression, unemployment or loneliness. The festivities surrounding the holidays only make us feel worse.
This Christmas day is not just for the young or for families. It is not just for those who can afford to decorate their homes with lights and fill their living rooms with presents. This Christmas day is especially for those who find themselves downtrodden and alone. It is for those who feel rejected and outcast. It is for sinners as well as for saints. This little baby born in Bethlehem has come to save us. He has come to seek out the lost and bring them home. He has come to find those living in despair and depression and bring them hope and joy. He has come to those who are alone to say, “I am with you.” If we are happy, then His presence increases our joy. If we are sad, then He is by our side to carry us. Now that the love of God has come into the world, none of us is ever really alone any more. Jesus has made His home with us and welcomed us into His family.
This day, therefore, is a time for rejoicing no matter what situation we may find ourselves in or no matter what may be burdening our minds. Jesus, the One our hearts long for, is among us. We have seen His light and celebrate the glory He has as the only Son of God. It is a glory that makes its home in a stable in Bethlehem, on city streets, in suburban sprawl, in lonely apartments and in congested malls. Jesus is with us. Our joy is complete. Come, let us worship!