Christmas Home

It’s that time when the giving of thanks leans into the giving of Christmas.  If for you that means gift-buying dread, travel concerns, or awkward parties, I’d like to offer you something that might freshen and deepen your thoughts about Christmas.

G.K. Chesterton was a dominating British writer in the early 20th century.  He was a journalist, art critic, crime novelist, and defender of the Christian faith.  T.S. Elliot described his poetry as “first-rate journalistic balladry” having observed a connection to common themes of life.

Among his many works we find a Christmas poem.  In it, which I only excerpt below due to brevity’s demands, he explores homecomings.  Before reading, it helps to settle into the soft memories of your own sweet homecomings, such as that time, amidst the world’s rudeness and triviality, you escaped back to family to recover some peace.  It was a time of rest and a place of belonging with loved ones, good memories, and the blessing of Mom’s cooking!  From “The House of Christmas”:

There fared a mother driven forth, out of an inn to roam;

In the place where she was homeless, all men are at home.


Here we have battle and blazing eyes,

And chance and honor and high surprise,

But our homes are under miraculous skies

Where the yule tale was begun.


A Child in a foul stable where the beasts feed and foam,

Only where He was homeless are you and I at home.


To an open house in the evening, Home shall men come,

To an older place than Eden and a taller town than Rome.

To the end of the way of the wandering star,

To the things that cannot be and that are,

To the place where God was homeless and all men are at home.

Chesterton connects the idea of home to that great mystery of God’s coming in the flesh, not to house or inn, but a foul stable of beasts.  Yet in that non-home, we find the home that a searching soul longs for.  Looking into that scene, we see that God reveals His love as an Innocent who would take away our sins.  At once, Bethlehem acknowledges the battle and blazing harshness of life, but offers an open door, a journey’s end, and eternity’s miracle.  “Come to me,” Jesus said, “and I will give you rest,” an invitation to come home.

Chesterton once said that “joy is the gigantic secret of the Christian.”  As the angel expressed to the shepherds, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people.”  In today’s fearful world, we need good news and great joy, a Christmas gift meant for you.

Amazing Grace

In October 2015, the posh Citizen Hotel in Sacramento hosted a banquet like never before. What happened is an everyday example of grace, a gift neither earned nor deserved.  Since grace describes God’s love and rejoicing over mankind, such examples help us visualize the Gospel.

The story begins with Quinn Duane being within a week of her long-anticipated wedding day. Plans for the ceremony and dinner reception were complete.  But in a phone call to her mother, she explained that the groom got cold feet and canceled.  Since the reception was non-refundable, replacing disappointment with generosity, they hatched a plan to invite homeless souls to a meal they wouldn’t forget.

So on a beautiful fall day in California, with the help of several homeless shelters, about 90 homeless men, women, and children, some in dress clothes, filed into the fancy venue and dined on gnocchi, salmon, and tri-tip beef with all the trimmings.  For the moment, they were free from their hard lives in the streets while enjoying a feast they could not have imagined before now.  It cost them nothing other than accepting the invitation.

This story is almost identical to one chronicled by Philip Yancy in What’s So Amazing About Grace? He retells other true stories.  A teenage girl runs away only to become a prostitute in Detroit, and after becoming sick and homeless she returns to the welcoming arms of her family.  A vagrant in New York dumpster-dives for restaurant toss-outs, and finds a lottery ticket that pays $243,000 for each of the next 20 years.  A venture capitalist refuses to accept the repayment offer from an entrepreneur in Los Angeles when the startup fails due to world events.  Yancy follows Jesus’ example of storytelling about grace in an attempt to overcome our natural resistance to it.

We have a difficult time with God’s grace because we want a god that responds only to efforts and achievements, or lack of. It doesn’t seem fair that God loves the world (John 3:16) and its prodigals.  That love does not mean he winks at sin.  No, sending the Son to suffer and die was no trivial matter, but He did it before you loved Him back.  You will have a hard time earning God’s love if it existed in extravagance before you were even born.

One of Jesus’s stories was about a wedding feast for the king’s son. The first group of invitees was unwilling, and abused the messengers.  Then the king said, “Go to the main highways, and as many as you find there invite to the wedding feast” (Mat. 22:9).  Jesus has prepared his own great banquet, and the invitations have been issued.  It is an invitation to receive His gift of love.  And that, friend, is amazing grace.