It is the most remarkable thing, that when the Lord Jesus was born, there was no place for him. According to the scripture, Mary and Joseph were away from their home at the behest of the authorities, in a city where apparently no one knew them. And in that city where they were strangers, it says, “she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.”
This Jesus, this savior, is born to be the Lord of the homeless people. All the ones who have no place, who are from somewhere else, who fall asleep tonight not knowing where they will be tomorrow, all of these belong by right to the one who slept in a feeding trough, since the inn was too crowded. All the ones, in Palestine and Washington and all across the world, who depend on the kindness of strangers, who pray that the authorities will ignore them, who only want a chance, all of these are invited to see that Jesus is one of them. And even all the ones of us who do have houses and homes in this world, who have food and safety, and who find after all that this is not enough, all of us who long for a place that endures, even we are called to see in Jesus the glory of God revealed. For in Jesus is everyone’s true home, in him justice is always at work, in his birth is the sign that God is not finished with us or with this world.
Jesus in Bethlehem seems so small and weak, frail even. There are voices all around us that tell us we are fools to trust ourselves to this baby. But through centuries of struggle, people like us have tested this child and have found in him courage, and hope, and the peace that passes all understanding or explanation. The problem is not that he is weak, but that we are, that we expect too little and are so easily satisfied. He wants to give us everything, in this world he wants to give us a place for everyone, no one hungry, and no one afraid. How can we want less than this? How can we not commit ourselves together to work to receive his blessing? He wants to give us everything, he wants to give us himself in the world to come, forever. How can we not realize that in the end, he himself is the only thing that will really satisfy us?
So may this baby be the one we serve, in vulnerability and faith. May our place be with him, now and always. And may the thoughts and prayers that are in our hearts now be the ones that God uses to sustain us in all the days ahead, in this life and the life to come. Amen.
This meditation was shared by the Rev. Richard H. Graham, Bishop, ELCA Metropolitan Washington, D.C. Synod, for the joint simultaneous service shared by worshippers at Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem and Washington National Cathedral on Sunday, December 18, 2010. The meditation us based on Luke 2: 1-7.