A Camping Savior Far from Home
Dec 26, 2021
First Sunday of Christmas
Worship 9 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.
Pastor Jean M. Hansen
If I say, especially if I sang, "I'll be home for Christmas," what is the following line? (you can plan on me). "Please have snow," (and mistletoe), "and presents by the tree. Christmas Eve will find me," (where the love light gleams). "I'll be home for Christmas," (if only in my dreams).
You can almost hear Bing Crosby crooning away, can't you? That song was written and first performed in 1943 and was a popular World War II reminder of any soldier's dream of being home when far away. Interestingly, the BBC banned it from being played out of fear that it would lower rather than boost morale.
I bring this up because I was reading about being home for Christmas and how, for some people, that phrase has a specific, positive meaning. For others, though, it is without significance or a painful experience. My earliest memories of Christmas - boosted by the home movies that my Uncle Louis took and had made into DVDs for the family - are at my mother's childhood home, and her brother's home, in southeast Nebraska, about four hours from where we lived.
We went there until I was six years old. I have memory glimpses of going to the small country church, eating (or refusing to eat) oyster stew and opening gifts with my cousins who ranged in age from young adults to teenagers to toddlers. The gifts I remember rejoicing over the most, and some of which I still have, are the ones I received then.
But for everyone, being home for Christmas changes over time, For me the memories are less accessible and less happy when we began to stay at our home, for reasons I won't detail now. The fact is that homes and circumstances change. People move, grow up, grow older, and being "home for Christmas" is different than it once was. Not necessarily negative, but different.
While you are pondering that, let me point out an idea about being home for Christmas that I have never considered before now. It is that when Jesus was born, for him, it was the opposite of going home for Christmas. What??? Think about the beautiful words of John 1 that were today's reading: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being." And then, "And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of truth and grace."
The Word is Jesus. Jesus was with God. Jesus was God. Before time, before there was a "when," the one we know as Jesus, but in a different form or no form, was at home with God. Did you catch that? In the beginning, the Word was at home. It also means that when the Word became human – was incarnate as Jesus – he was no longer at home. Instead, he was in the world, not known for who he was, not received, not at home.
Still, Jesus "pitched his tent," which is the actual translation of "lived among us." Isn't camping what people do when they are not at home? They are "roughing it," having to take showers in tents, as we have done on the Ohio Mission Trip. Think about it … isn't that a good description for going from dwelling in glory to being human? Listen to this whimsical description from commentator Scott Hoezee, "No one recognized him because he was one of us now, living on a kind of extended camping trip, and not a day went by when Jesus didn't sense this. After all, if you are deep-down the eternal Son of God, then even the most plus mattress from Sealy Posture-Pedic must feel hard as a rock compared to living on clouds of glory with the Father and the Spirit. The Word was made meat (flesh) and he went camping." (1)
Really, I never thought about the fact that Christmas is about the homelessness of the Word, as Scott Hoezee puts it. Jesus did not go home or stay home for Christmas, but did just the opposite. For that, we can be thankful. Jesus left home for us; he became forgiveness, overflowing with truth and grace, for us. From him, we receive grace upon grace. And, Jesus has made God known to us. Jesus' essence is grace.
"We get grace-squared, grace-cubed, grace raised to the power of 10. It builds up and up in our lives, and how we need that assurance…. God knows what we know (and what we can admit if only we're honest with ourselves and one another): in this life and for this time yet, we're never finished with our need for grace. The Good News is that neither is God in Christ ever finished with doling it out. Grace is where we live. Grace is the ocean in which we swim. Grace is the atmosphere we breathe," wrote Scott Hoezee. (2)
And grace is the best gift we receive, as well as the most significant one we can share. There are many ways that grace can happen for and through us. Here's my unusual Christmas-time grace story.
A couple Saturdays ago, I decided to stop at ONE, just one, store in Montrose to get a particular gift that I knew was at this specific store. Oh, my … that was not a great idea. As you can imagine, the traffic was terrible, and the parking lot was a madhouse with few available spots. But I noticed one just beyond a large, white SUV that was stopped in the aisle but close to the store's doors. There were no blinkers on, so I surmised they were picking a large item up from the store. So, I zipped around the SUV and into the parking spot.
The next thing I heard was a loud blare of the SUV's horn and saw the very angry face of the young woman driver. Oh...my…gosh; I had stolen her parking spot. I'm sure she had some creative words for me, and some unkind thoughts about older people.
Once in the store, I saw her, and she twice went another direction rather than pass me. I felt bad about the situation; should I say something to her or let it go? Finally, as I stood in line at the register, she was headed my way, saw me, and paused. I took advantage of that moment to approach her and ask if I had just taken her parking place. She stared at me with cold eyes and nodded "yes". "I am so sorry," I said, "I didn't realize you were waiting for that spot until you honked. I apologize for not paying closer attention."
Now…what would she do? To say she was surprised is an understatement, but she still looked grim, so who knew if I was about to be told off … I braced myself. Instead, there was grace … "It's OK," she said, I found another spot."
It's a simple example of grace, which makes it a good one. I was wrong. I had hurt someone, granted, not intentionally or hugely, but still. My actions could cause bitterness. And, I was forgiven, let off the hook, even though I did not deserve it. The only thing that would make it a better example is if she had forgiven me without my apology, which I would have no way of knowing.
That's grace, and it's ours, but for reasons more significant than snatching a parking place … all because Jesus did not stay home but came to camp out with us! AMEN