In the glittery celebration of Christmas, we observe that Jesus breathed his first air in a grotty, forgotten stable but in reality it doesn’t often resonate with the mood of Christmas. Our cultural traditions urge us to do the opposite – we celebrate his birth with our families and communities in homes.
As Christmas moves onto Epiphany and exposes us to January (what a slog of a month!) perhaps now is the best time to take a second look at the stable and consider just how profound this act of God is.
At Christmas, God becomes homeless. It’s not just any home he’s leaving – it’s the perfect home of the Trinity, where the Father, Son and Holy Spirit do nothing but love each other. Jesus starts off life in poverty and exile. He chooses to side with all those who are abandoned, persecuted and forgotten by the powerful.
As an adult, He left home again to travel, “with nowhere to lay his head.” And at the heart of this journey from perfect home into the loneliness of the world is of course, His love for us. It’s the desire of the Father to bring us back home. In the pain and confusion of the last supper, Jesus comforts his disciples with this radical promise of home:
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also”… “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” (John 14: 1-4, 23)
We are all born with a longing for home. The good news of the Gospel is that this is not a longing which we should ignore, or push down but instead one which we can find in this story. The Father is waiting for all of his children to come home. The Son understands deeply what it means to be homeless. And we are given His Spirit now, God dwelling with and in us, in the uncomfortable in-between time before He completes his reconciliation.
In a few of weeks’ time, churches across the country will be marking Homeless Sunday. It’s a chance to stand and pray with people experiencing homelessness, to challenge the conditions that help create it and to celebrate the work of the people who tackle it.
We may not have all been homeless, or in housing need, but we are following a God who most definitely has been. He understands this pain. Yet there is also a challenge here: we follow a God who gave up his own comfort to comfort us – how can we follow his lead?
One tangible way to start is by taking action on homeless Sunday – click here for more resources, ideas and inspiration.