Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Home for Christmas

The idea and ideal of coming home for Christmas is one of our warmest images. After all, who wouldn’t want to be home with our loving families on Christmas morning (after going to church of course) gathered round the Christmas tree opening presents. Then later in the day everyone would gather round the dining room table for Christmas dinner of turkey and all the trimmings. Home for the holidays; it doesn’t get better than that. Or if it doesn’t quite live up to our hopes and expectations it certainly should.

My parish undertook a study series this fall entitled ‘The Prodigal God’ which was based on the Prodigal Son Parable in the Gospel of Luke. The theme of the study was the idea of returning home to God and the central image of the banquet.. In the parable the father who represents God, throws a banquet to celebrate the return of the prodigal son who left home after claiming his inheritance from the father and lived a dissolute life of wine, women and song. The father declares that, “we had to celebrate.” He had no choice. Unfortunately the elder son – the dutiful one remains outside the feast refusing to come in despite the father’s pleading. Unlike the younger prodigal son who has repented his life and returned home, the elder brother is in a self-imposed exile. In his deluded self-righteousness he cannot accept that invitation.
Unfortunately this is sometimes how our family relationships and Christmas gatherings turn out – less than we had hoped and longed for. We may hope that Christmas will bring peace and goodwill on this occasion if not on the whole earth. Families do not always live in peace and harmony as God intends. In addition many people live in circumstances that do not make this ideal Christmas possible. However, as Jesus shows us in the Parable, the feast is open to each of us. The family table at Christmas dinner is a wonderful image of the feast that God offers to each and every one of His children. God’s feast is offered to us through the love of God. That love came down to earth and was born on Christmas.

The poet Robert Frost said, “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.” That may not necessarily be true but it should be. However, God’s banquet that is represented so well by the Christmas Dinner table is a place where you are always welcome. God’s love is there for each of us. The door is open and Jesus Christ is there to welcome you.

It is my hope that your Christmas may be a reflection and a fulfillment of the love which God offers to all of us through the symbol of that tiny baby in a manger in Bethlehem. May all of you have a blessed Christmas and a wonderful New Year.

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