This is the text of my Christmas Eve sermon. It is based upon Luke 2:1-7. In editing it, I finished a set of corrections, and saw that the word count was exactly 1000 words. So I decided to stop right there.
Merry Christmas - Enjoy your home, where ever it is.
Quick survey. How many of you travelled “a distance” to be here? I don’t mean here, as in church – by the way, thanks for coming - but here as in Longwood/Withee /Greenwood? You’ve come here to celebrate Christmas. How many of you are back after spending time away, such as in college, or your work takes you away. Hands up please? Thank you. To all of you, welcome home and Merry Christmas.
Joseph and Mary headed to the town from which his family came, Bethlehem, not so much for the holidays but because In those days Caesar Augustus declared that everyone throughout the empire should be enrolled in the tax lists. … Everyone went to their own cities to be enrolled. Since Joseph belonged to David’s house and family line, he went up from the city of Nazareth in Galilee to David’s city, called Bethlehem, in Judea.
Joseph has come to Bethlehem, the city that his family is from. But when they get there, there was no place for them in the inn.
We think there was no room for them at AN inn, a hotel or boarding house. But the word, translated here as inn, is translated elsewhere as the guest room, or upper room. Houses in Israel at this time had two floors. You had the second floor where the family would live, and guests would stay. The first floor was for animals, a barn. Think of a house with a ground floor garage and the living area above it.
For those of you who have come home, what have you come home to? Are you coming home to the house you’ve lived in? Is your room still your room, or has it been “repurposed?”
What if you come to “your own home” and there is no room for you? Your grandparents & cousins have taken over your old room and you get the fold out sofa bed with the bar across the middle of your back. Maybe you get a sleeping bag on the floor. Maybe the room for you is the garage.
Joseph’s family couldn’t find a place for them to squeeze in on the second floor, so they got the garage/barn. They weren’t turned away, but got the very last space available. They found a way.
Now to those of you who are “locals,” imagine this. You have last minute “bonus” guests. Those who you didn’t think were coming showed up, maybe with at plus one or two. You’d find a way. You’d find room. It may not be great, but it’s a place to stay. You can’t turn away family who came home for the holidays.
I bring this up, because as Perry Como sang, “There’s no place like home for holidays.”
No matter how much family friction your family has, you wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. You love them. There are times you don’t like them, but you love them. You may want, or need, some alone time, but you want to be with the people whom you love on this special time of the year. They are the ones you turn to when things happen, good and bad. They are the ones you want to share your joys with. They are the ones who comfort you in the midst of your sorrows. “There’s no place like home for holidays.”
Despite all of their flaws, you love them.
Despite all of our flaws, God loves us. Especially you.
God’s people were disobedient and rebellious. God loved them still. We continue to be sinful, and reject and defy God, sometimes denying God. And God loves us still. God wants us to share our joys with Them. God wants to comfort us in our sorrows.
So into the mess of human life, God went home.
God found a way. God chose to be born in an occupied territory, to a teenage mom, to a family that consigned them to the garage/barn, with a feeding trough for a crib. A family that soon would be refugees, fleeing from King Herod.
Suddenly, your home for the holiday doesn’t seem that bad.
One of my favorite theologians, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote: In the body of Jesus Christ, humanity has been accepted by God. Out of God’s mercy, we are accepted as part of God’s family. We are with Christ, part of the body of Christ, claimed in our baptisms, baptized INTO Christ. We are fed by Christ, when we receive his body and blood, the bread and the wine, given for us. We are with Christ because Christ is with us, Emmanuel, God with us.
God took the people who have rebelled and wandered away, and has brought us home through Jesus Christ, the child savior, whose birth we celebrate tonight.
We go home for the holidays. We celebrate Christmas by coming home because that is where we know we are loved.
God came home on this Holy Day because we needed to know that we are loved. And that divine love cannot be broken or lost.
As you celebrate being home for this Holy Day, find a way to remember the gift of love given to us by God, in the form of a child, wrapped in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.
Remember that Joseph’s family found a way to make room for the Holy Family. Remember that God’s love extends beyond our families, beyond our friends and make room in your heart for those who in need; the least, the last, the lost, the little ones and those who are alone.
There are those who have no place to celebrate these Holy Days. Remember those who experience abuse. Remember those who are rejected because of their race, religion or sexual orientation. But don’t just remember them. Find a way to help them.
I bring good news to you—wonderful, joyous news for all people. Your savior is born in David’s city. He is Christ the Lord.
Welcome home. Merry Christmas.
 Bonhoeffer, Discipleship, page 214.
This is my Pastor’s Ponderings article for the December 2016 Newsletter.
Don’t be afraid! Look! I bring good news to you—wonderful, joyous news for all people. Your savior is born today in David’s city. He is Christ the Lord. – Luke 2:10-11 CEB
Now that I have your attention, let me explain.
As part of the “War on Christmas,” people have been pushing back on the use of the term “X-Mas.” They want to put the “Christ back in Christmas.” If you have been one of those people, you’ve been fighting the wrong fight.
I don’t have a problem using, writing or saying X-Mas.
That is because, unlike Algebra class, the X is not unknown. The X in X-Mas is Christ.
The reason is that X is the Greek letter CHI, the first letter in the title Christ (χριστὸς). The second letter, the one that looks like a “p” is actually RHO, and has the sound of the letter “R.” It is an ancient way for people to identify themselves as Christians, combining the letters CHI and RHO. It is where we get the liturgical symbol that looks like the letter P with an X through the tail, in case you’ve ever wondered where that symbol came from.
Using an X in X-Mas is identifying the ancient history of this Holy Day, the day when we celebrate a Mass in honor of the birth of Christ. If you really want to put the focus on CHRIST back in Christmas, then don’t fixate on giving gifts to your loved ones. Don’t focus on the birth. Focus on His commands
If you want to put the focus on CHRIST in Christmas:
If we want to put the focus on CHRIST in Christmas, we will do what he told his followers to do. We can share God’s love with our loved ones. We can celebrate with those close to us. But we shouldn’t stop there. It should be the starting point.
I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who harass you so that you will be acting as children of your Father who is in heaven. … If you love only those who love you, what reward do you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same? – Matthew 5:44-47 CEB
Let us be ONE in Christ,
Pastor Brian Robert Campbell
Pastor Brian's Page
Pastor Brian Robert Campbell has served at Our Savior's and Emmanuel since August 1, 2011, and began serving Nazareth on December 1, 2015.
Pastor Brian is originally from Saginaw, Michigan. He graduated from Alma College with a B.A. in Business Administration, and worked for the Saginaw Public Schools' Community Education Department for 17 years before answering the call to ministry. He graduated with a M. Div. from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg in 2011. ONE in Christ Lutheran Parish is his first call.
He is the only child of Robert and Charlotte Campbell, both who have entered the Church Eternal.
He is accompanied in ministry by his faithful bulldogge Ananias, who regularly writes for our newsletter. His articles are archived here.
He is a fan of sports teams from his native Michigan, especially the Tigers and the Lions. But we tolerate him despite that.
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