“…his own people did not accept him.” — John 1:11
I have come to the conclusion that I like the idea of a White Christmas better than the reality of a White Christmas. I don’t like driving in snow, and I don’t like shoveling it, and I don’t like walking across it once it’s turned into compacted ice day after day. We’ve had a couple storms this December, and we’re slated to have another next weekend. And when the storms come in, I don’t know about you, but all I want to do is stay home and ride out the storm with hot chocolate and a blanket. I think that desire to go home is built into all of us.
It’s even built into my smart phone. All I have to say is, “OK, Google now! Go home!” And wherever I am it will pop up a map and navigation to lead me home.
Dorothy, in the Wizard of Oz, found out there was no place like home. Of course it took her 1 hour and 52 minutes, a really cranky witch, and a committee of flying monkeys to teach her, but she learned it.
Have you seen some of those Military homecoming videos on the evening news or on YouTube? I think the ones I love best the ones where the dad or mom has been away in Afghanistan, and they surprise their kids at a school assembly. I guess those are my favorites because I used to be a schoolteacher, and I would’ve loved to have been part of something like that. But what if that mom or dad comes out and no one recognizes them. What if no child bursts into tears and runs into their arms? What if, instead of a welcome, the returning soldier was met with both indifference and in some cases outright hostility.
How unspeakably sad that would be. How lonely. How empty. That emptiness is exactly what John tells us Jesus experienced. Jesus was not recognized when he came home.
"He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him." — John 1:10, 11
Of all people who should have been prepared to recognize the Messiah, it should’ve been his own nation. Israel gloried in the commandments and ordinances and prophecies of their Scriptures. Not only had their own Scriptures prepared them for Jesus’ homecoming, his cousin John the Baptist had tried to get them ready ahead of time to welcome Jesus — he told them Jesus was on his way home. But if Jesus was expecting a warm welcome, he was sadly disappointed.
I wonder why so many folks were not able to welcome Jesus. Maybe they felt unprepared, like they hadn't had a chance to clean up and present their best face. A lot of people are afraid to welcome Jesus home today because they feel like they’re just not good enough. It’s almost like they think they have to impress him or offer a spotlessly clean house and a perfectly tidy soul, before Jesus wants to be home with them. And they forget his words, “Come unto me all who are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) The only requirement for being safe at home with Jesus is being worn out from trying to handle everything yourself.
Sometimes, like the Jews of his day, we’re expecting a different Jesus to come home. The Jews of Jesus’ day expected someone a bit more like the Lone Ranger who would ride into town on a white horse and shoot up the bad guys, the Romans. And when he did come home talking about a spiritual reawakening, urging them to peace as opposed to violence, teaching them to love their neighbor, whoever that neighbor is… it made them mad.
Sometimes we want a Jesus to show up who isn’t quite so radical in his views about caring for the poor. And we’d rather he not harp on how we shouldn’t be so materialistic especially so close to Christmas. And couldn’t he be a little more supportive when instead of pursuing peace, we decide our first resort is to go for our guns? We want a Jesus who agrees with our politics, our priorities, and our spending habits. And when the real Jesus knocks on the door and challenges us to rethink some of these things, we don’t recognize him. Sometimes we get mad, and we say, “I think you got the wrong house.”
Some folks are just too caught up in the busyness of their day-to-day lives to recognize just how much they need the new life that Jesus came to offer. Sometimes, after a hectic day, they pause late at night when the kids are in bed, and the house is finally quiet. And for just a few moments, they recognize there has to be more to life than just going to work, coming home exhausted, catching a few hours’ sleep, and then doing it all over again. But then they get caught right back up in the rat race, and never find time to welcome Jesus home.
But this isn’t the Gospel — The Good News. The Good News is found in verse 12: “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God.” The Good News is Jesus knew his children were longing for home, and he was determined that through the storms of this life they would have a home with him.
Garrison Keillor well-known for his stories from Lake Wobegon tells a story about what he called his "storm-home":
The principal of his school, Mr. Detman, fearful of a winter blizzard during the school day, assigned each student from the outlying county a "storm-home" in town, near the school. If a blizzard struck during school hours, each child was to go to their storm-home. Here is how Keillor told the story through his boyhood eyes:
Mine was the Kloeckles’, an old couple who lived in a little green cottage by the lake . . . . It looked like the home of the kindly old couple that the children lost in the forest suddenly come upon in a clearing and know they are lucky to be in a story with a happy ending . . .
I imagined the Kloeckles had personally chosen me as their storm child because they liked me. "Him" they had told Mr. Detman. "In the event of a blizzard, we want that boy! The skinny one with the thick glasses."
No blizzard came during the school hours that year. All the snow storms were convenient evening or weekend ones, and I never got to stay with the Kloeckles, but they were often in my thoughts and they grew large in my imagination.
My Storm Home.
Blizzards aren’t the only storms and not the worst by any means. I could imagine worse things. If the worst should come, I could go to the Kloeckles and knock on their door. "Hello," I’d say. "I’m your storm child."
"Oh, I know," she’d say. "I was wondering when you’d come. Oh, it’s good to see you. How would you like a hot chocolate and an oatmeal cookie?"
We’d sit at the table. "Looks like this storm is going to last awhile." (She’d say.)
"Terrible storm. They say it’s going to get worse before it stops. I just pray for anyone who’s out in this."
"But we’re so glad to have you. I can’t tell you. Carl! Come down and see who’s here."
"Is it the storm child?"
"Yes. Himself, in the flesh!"
Although he was not welcome home, Jesus knew how important home was. So he became our storm-home and our strength. And you… you are God’s storm-child. Like that kindly couple who picked Garrison Keillor out to be their storm-child, our God, has chosen you. You are the beloved. And when the storms of this life get to be too much, you have a place where you are always welcome... a home near the warm heart of God.