Sunday, December 21, 2008

No Place to Call Home

Fourth Sunday in Advent
Thomas, Apostle
December 21, 2008
Luke 1:26-38

“the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”
Matthew 8:20

You’d think that if God is going to become a man He’d at least find decent living quarters. I’m sure the family He grew up in was loving and He was happy in His modest home. But when it came time for the Ministry, the three years of preaching, teaching, and healing, why was there no place for Him to lay His head? These are His own words: “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” Jesus was right at home being transient.

He wasn’t here for lounging around. He didn’t come to be served. He came to serve. He didn’t need a mansion. He’s God. He owns everything. He didn’t need a house, He came to earth to be among the people He created. To serve them, to save them. Why does He need a home for that? He is at home being among His people.

God dwells in the heavens, but He has come down to earth. He didn’t live the life of a king, though He is the King of all creation. He had nowhere to lay His head because He didn’t rest until He accomplished salvation. Then His rest was for three days in a tomb. But even there He was at home. Even after dying He was at home descending into hell to proclaim victory over Satan on his home turf. And yet, Jesus was not at home in the tomb because the tomb could not hold Him. Enough resting, Jesus walked out of that tomb so He could continue His work of salvation.

Oh, it was accomplished, all right. Now to the work of delivering it. He is still at home in the heavens. He is still seated at the right hand of God. But He still comes to earth. He loves to dwell among His people. He’s been doing that from the beginning.

In fact, King David has a problem with it. I’m in a palace and the Ark of the Covenant is in a tent. David thinks this is an insult to God so he’s got grand designs for a House just for God. It will be a spectacular temple, dedicated to the one true God, the one who deserves the very best building on the earth. And it was eventually done. God got His temple. And He was at home in the temple. But that wasn’t His home, in that He didn’t really need it. In fact, come forty years after Jesus’ ascension into heaven the temple was destroyed, and God was at home with that as well, because you can’t destroy God’s home. You can destroy a building. The house Jesus grew up in is no longer standing. But God is at home in His creation, even as He is the Lord of the heavens.

God is the Lord of the heavens, but is perfectly at home in humble abodes. When the Israelites wandered in the wilderness He dwelled in a tent. When Joseph and Mary reached Bethlehem there was no vacancy. No problem. God was perfectly at home in a stable. Among animals. Dirt. Smell. Probably cold. The nine months before His birth He was at home in the womb of Mary. Granted, as a human being He was not aware of His nine month stay in the womb, even as none of us were. But God was at home with that, to be one with us in humanity. To not just enter the world as an adult and avoid the being cared for, the puberty, the demands of making a living.

Our Lord was at home in being a Master who wraps a towel around His waist to carry out the work of the slave. Our Lord was content in being ridiculed and taken advantage of. He was at home in being rejected by the very people He created and reached out to in love. He did not long for a quiet, comfortable home to be in when He was beaten and bloodied and mocked. He was at home in suffering for the sin of the world, considering it joy to endure the punishment for our sin. This He is at home with: joy. Joy not of being the Almighty Lord of the universe, but of doing everything He could to save us so that we may be at home with Him.

The Son of Man had no place to lay His head because the Son of Man chose to lay aside His glory. The Son of Man chose to be the Son of Man even though He is the eternal Son of God. How can this be that God would choose to have no place to lay His head when we are so often worried about our material existence? It could be because we so often turn our energy toward our material existence whereas our Lord expends His energy in saving us for our eternal home in heaven.

The promises God gave to King David about how the Savior would reign come to pass in a remarkably unpretentious way. A girl is greeted by an angel and told that she will be the home of God for nine months and the very mother of God. Yet, the promises of God to David were that the Savior would rule. Mary was just trying to figure out how she would give birth being a virgin. The answer was simple: with God nothing is impossible. Mary still didn’t comprehend how God could accomplish such a thing, but she believed it. And we can believe that the promises God gave to David have been fulfilled in this action of God of moving into a very strange home: this earth.

We can believe that God continues to make His home with us, His people, in Baptism. He dwells in us. We are a very strange home for God, but then, Mary thought the same thing. May we believe as she did, not demanding comprehension but simply being grateful for a life of servant-hood to her holy Lord. The One who came in poverty of body and spirit, all in order that we may be rich in grace and mercy. That we may dwell in the mansions of glory in heaven. That we may see that that promise is as astounding as the ones to David and Mary, and yet, just as true and awesome.

This is not our home, in the sense that we don’t belong here forever. Heaven is our home. We’re transients like Jesus in that sense. Here on earth to carry out the work our Lord has given us to do. It’s easily lost in the Christmas season. The world wants to talk about Christmas spirit and love and ignores the glorious temple God chose to dwell in, the baby Jesus. The man who was spat upon and scourged. Who was charged as guilty and condemned to death and damned to hell by God the Father Himself. You won’t hear much talk of that at holiday parties, but here in the House of God it’s the only thing there is to talk about. You may hear that we’re all the children of God, but you won’t hear much talk about Baptism, the very way we become the children of God and are given a place at the Table of God in eternity.

If your joy of Christmas centers in the God who is at home in bread and wine you’ll be scoffed at or maybe just ignored as having strange beliefs. God is obviously at home everywhere since He owns everything, but loves to be at home in the water of Baptism and the bread and wine of His Holy Supper. Since He didn’t have a home, He instituted His Holy Supper at the home of someone else. He doesn’t need a home to save us, He just comes to us right where we’re at. In water with His forgiveness, in bread and wine with nourishment for our souls. He is at home in the flesh. Offering it on the cross for the sin of the world. Giving His Body and Blood to us right here at this very altar. It’s a nice altar, but it’s nothing fancy. And yet, He’s perfectly at home there. Inviting us to His Holy Meal in His Holy House. Preparing a place for us in His Heavenly Home. There’s no place like home. Thank God it’s not a fantasy. Amen.


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