Several years ago, when my family and I lived in Los Angeles, I had an evening routine that I will always cherish. As I drove home from work on my evening commute (my drive was 15-20 minutes, hardly worth mentioning in Southern California terms) I would talk on my cell phone, safely on speaker I might add, with my two young boys Grayson and Stuart, who were preschool and first grade. As I drove, we would talk about our days, what we had done, who we had talked with. As the drive went on, they would ask me where I was and I would tell them landmarks, such as the Hollywood Bowl or Warner Brothers Studios; the neighborhood Safeway or one of the 30 or so Starbucks that I would pass. As I told them I was turning onto Jacaranda (our street), I would hear them tell each other and laugh.
As I turned the corner to see our home, I could look and see two faces pressed against a window above our garage. As I navigated my car into the driveway, they would race each other down the stairs, and by the time I got out of the car, one of them would be on each leg. Briefcase in hand, I would lug my way into the house. Once inside, I would hear my wife, Lori, welcome me home, as she greeted me with a kiss. I loved this routine, and I loved coming home!
One day, as I was in my study at the church, I was reading and working on the first chapter of the Gospel of John - the great chapter which tells us of the who and why of the Lord Jesus, who came to us at Christmas. This chapter, which has many poignant verses, is a favorite of many. One of those verses, talking about the birth and ministry of Jesus says, "He came to His own and His own did not receive Him."
What a tragic thing to have happen - coming to save and redeem your beloved, and your beloved rejecting you!
I could not imagine coming home every night to children or a wife who didn't welcome me, or even worse, rejected me. Imagine your children saying, "Oh Dad, did you really have to get home before I was in bed tonight?" or your wife saying, "Are you sure there wasn't something you needed to do at work before you came home?" After a routine of this, one might stop coming home!
But Lord Jesus, the eternal Word of God, knowing He would be rejected, came to us anyway! Jesus humbled himself - wrapped our flesh around Himself. He suffered ridicule and rejection, a rejection which led Him to the cross of our salvation. Jesus did not count equality with God something to be exploited, but came to us as a suffering servant.
The tradition of placing luminaries out in front of one's house on Christmas Eve is a way for a family to say that the Holy Family, who might need a place because the inn is full, is welcome there.
This Christmas, Christ wants to come to each of us. What will our response be? Will we reject him? Will we welcome him? This Advent, note the markers of each week as my boys noted the landmarks I would drive by. Christmas is coming! Let us prepare ourselves to again, or for the first time, welcome Christ into our hearts and lives. As the great evangelical carol "O Little Town of Bethlehem" says, "Where meek souls will receive Him still the dear Christ enters in … cast out our sin and enter in, be born in us today."
Pastors in the U-B circulation area who want to write a column should contact Catherine Hicks at 509-526-8312, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.