Merry Christmas, everybody. It’s a cold one out there tonight, especially considering it was 70 degrees a couple days ago. I was going to make a joke about how it was so warm that Suzanne Wheelock and I were wearing shorts in December, but….
2013 will go down as the year that I learned way more about the buying and selling of houses than I ever wanted to know. The church sold a property we had been renting out for years, and the team that took on that task deserves a lifetime off of purgatory, 10 days off for every minute spent on that sale. One of the issues with the desirability of the house for potential buyers was access to a bathroom from some parts of the one rental unit, the lack of access made the house less livable. We’ve also been looking to for a house for some family to move into; we’ve been looking at houses both around the city and in an over-55 community. One of the striking differences between a house in the city and a house in an over-55 community is, you guessed it, access. Very few people from 1682 to 1900, that’s when most of the houses in the city were built, were thinking firstly of access to and in the house. If you can’t climb the steps into the house and then climb a near vertical staircase to the second floor, well, that was your problem, I guess.
Access was a big deal in 2013. Access not only to a house but to housing; access to healthcare, access to the process of getting healthcare; access to information and to what information we really should have access to, and what should happen to the people who blur that line; access to credit card information that some people should definitely not have access to.
Access to housing, at least temporary housing, was a hot topic two thousand and thirteen years ago too. Much is made every Christmas about the keeper of a certain inn and the temporary solution he had for the Holy Family. But that barn was the only warm and semi-comfortable place that Joseph and Mary had access to that night.
Some others had access to that barn, some unexpected visitors in the form of shepherds. Luke just told us the story once again, the story of the heavenly host delivering that long awaited news, the Good News as it were, to those shepherds keeping their flock by night. But what if the story was a bit different? “Suppose that those same shepherds had been drowsing on those same fabled hills keeping watch … same as every evening. But then suppose that instead of an angel in the sky, what roused them from their sleep was a Roman centurion on a stallion shouting out through cupped hands, “Hear ye, hear ye! There has been born this day, in the city of Rome, a son to Caesar Augustus, and he shall be the heir apparent to the throne of the Empire.” Now I’ll ask you to set aside for a moment the fact that a band of shepherds in Judea wouldn’t be able to trot over to Rome very easily. But suppose these musty-smelling keepers of mutton had said, “Let us go over to Rome to see this thing the centurion has made known to us.” If they showed up at Caesar’s grand palace in Rome, do you suppose they would have been let in? If they said, “We’ve come to take a gander at the emperor’s new son,” would the palace guards say, “Sure, come on in, the nursery is to the left”? Of course not.”1
And what kind of parents were Mary and Joseph, anyway? They’ve got the most important kid in the world, right, and so why didn’t they name Him Apple or North or Moon Unit? Why didn’t they keep Him closed off to the world and sell His baby pictures for millions of dollars? What kind of parents would let dirty old shepherds into their end-unit hotel room on the night of their kid’s birth?
O wait. We’re talking about the mother and foster-father of the Son of the Living God, the same living God who so wanted access to us that He sent His Son Jesus to be one of us, so that in the end we would all have access back to Him. This is the good news of God in Christ Jesus, that not only was Jesus born that day in the city of David called Bethlehem, but that the least among all people were not only given access to Him, but invited to come see Him.
Our Christmas question, then, becomes one of access: Having been given access to God in Christ Jesus, what kind of access do we give Him? Is Jesus welcome in our homes and in our hearts? Do we welcome the least of those among us the way He did on the very night of His birth?
Here at Christ Church we keep those doors open every day so that all people might have access to the Lord who’s birth we celebrate tonight; and this Christmas, I pray that all of us will open our homes and hearts to be filled with the love of Christ. To you and to yours, a very merry Christmas.
1Scott Hoezee, This Week.