We've been talking for a couple of days about how Christmas is a homecoming - it's a homecoming for Joseph and for Jesus and for us. And at the same time, it's not a great homecoming. No one in his hometown makes room for Joseph, not even at the inn; the world doesn't make a whole lot of room for Jesus, on this night or many others; and we, in the midst of a pandemic, aren't sure what home looks like for us, either.
And yet, there's still Christmas, and we can't ignore that. Especially not this year.
There is still a silent night and a heavenly chorus. There is still a bright and morning star to guide the way. There are still shepherds in the fields who can't wait to rush in and see the newborn baby boy, still wise men setting out to see Him. There is still this quiet, tender moment between mother and child when new life - really new life - comes into the world and the entire promise of God is wrapped in swaddling clothes.
There is something beautiful that happens at Christmas, and it can't be stopped. And it can't be ignored. And it can't be neglected. And it can't even be quarantined away. Whether there's room for Joseph in the inn or not. Whether there's a place to lay a newborn baby or not. Whether we're waving at each other through picture windows and leaving presents on porches and mailing stocking stuffers in as festive of packages as we can find...or not. Christmas is coming. And it is beautiful and magical and wonderful and just as full of love as it ever has been.
Have you ever noticed how many artist renderings we have of that first Christmas? It probably wasn't that clean. It probably wasn't that well-lit. It certainly didn't smell like peppermint in that manger. We know that it was a night that, if it had been any other baby, was a night worth forgetting. It was a night out in the cold, a night separated from friends and family, a night when something big was happening and everyone seemed to miss it, no one seemed to care. It was a night that was hard to find a homecoming, even in a place called home. And if it had not be Jesus Himself, no one would draw that night for us. No one would paint it. No one would labor to make it beautiful.
But the truth is that it is beautiful, it was beautiful before we ever painted it. Before we ever tried to capture its beauty, it was breathtaking. And we look on those quaint little scenes of a tiny baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a bed of hay...and there's just something about it. We know it was a humble beginning, but somehow, what a moment it was anyway.
And I think this Christmas is going to be like that.
I think this Christmas is going to be one where maybe we don't feel like taking a lot of pictures. Where we're so keenly aware of all that is missing this year. We're going to look around at our quiet living rooms and humble abodes and think, gosh, if this were any other day.... But it's not any other day. It's Christmas. And somehow, some way, if we can find it in our hearts to try to capture something, anything, about this day, I think one day, we're going to look back on it and say, What a Christmas.
It won't be a homecoming, not even in a place called home. It might not be that clean. It might not seem that bright. It might not smell like peppermint (or cinnamon - cinnamon seems to be the Christmas scent these days, I guess). It might seem like a day worth forgetting. But there will be something about it, anyway. There will be something beautiful this Christmas. Just like there always has been.
And it will be up to us not to miss it.