I called an elderly member of this church the other day to see what he would be doing for Christmas. ‘Are you in a support bubble?’ I asked. He snorted. ‘The only support bubbles I shall have on Christmas Day are in a bottle’. I knew just how he felt – and I enjoyed a few ‘support bubbles’ myself on Christmas Day afternoon.
But when I’m depressed, I try to be careful about booze. It doesn’t help. Space, exercise, good and careful thinking - and prayer. And counting my blessings. I have a beautiful, warm home - and that is a real blessing at a time when Tier 4 means spending most of my time there.
There is a difference between house and home. We blur it all the time, but it matters. The home I grew up in was warm and loving. But the house - in fact it was a council flat - was small and pretty cold, because we were poor. I have known many people who live in gigantic houses. But there is little sense of home there. A house is a place - but there is literally no place like home.
Christmas celebrates God making his home with us. We are his dwelling place. That is what Word-made-flesh means. The tightrope we walk between the particular and the universal is severed by the Incarnation. We are the place he is found. We are his home.
Bethlehem was where he was born; but it was not his home. He lived in Nazareth, in Galilee; but his home is no longer there, even if once it was. Christmas declares that his home is where your heart is.
We have to be careful here. He is not some kind of divine lodger, some convenient adjacent household. He chooses flesh. But it is up to us whether or not we choose Him. He will always give meek souls the option to receive Him still. That’s what He is like. That’s who He is.
Your house may be big or small; it may be posh or poor. You may have stashed enough loo roll to last until next Christmas; or your cupboards may be quite bare. But He doesn’t come to make house with you. His requirements are different, and, in every sense, more heartfelt. The carol tells you how it works. Remember? If you were a shepherd, you’d bring a lamb; if you were a wise man – or woman – you would do your part. Yet what you can, you give him …
So: give Him your heart, this Christmas. It is where He is most at home.
This is an edited version of the sermon preached by Adrian in Great St Mary’s on Christmas Day, which you can hear by following this link
Illustration by George Callaghan