How many of you have had to spend at least one Christmas away from home? I can remember at least one Christmas I spent away from my family because I was across the nation in the state of Washington holding special meetings. A pastor invited me to share the holidays with his family, which was nice, but I really missed not being with my wife and children living then in Ohio. Did you realize that the entire Christmas narrative encompassed characters who were away from home?
- Joseph and Mary. They felt the furthest from their home in Nazareth and about sixty-five or so miles from Bethlehem. They had gone there to enroll in a census required of all Roman citizens for tax purposes. To complicate matters, Mary was about to deliver her baby. Doubtless coming all that distance to a strange town must have been especially hard for her. I am certain she must have longed for the familiar faces and surroundings of home as any mother-to-be would.
Bethlehem was already overcrowded, and to make matters worse, Joseph and Mary were forced to stay in a cave where animals were kept. But all this was in the providence of God and fulfilled His Word that Christ would be born in the tiny village of Bethlehem. Caesar Augustus was too busy making himself a god to the people to pay much attention to the birth of Jesus. King Herod was filled with jealousy and hatred at what he considered a threat to his throne, so he sought to kill the Savior. There would be no welcoming committee, no fanfare, no elaborate celebration, when the King of Kings came into this world.
- Wise men, Magi. We remember those who came from the far East to visit Jesus and to present Him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. It was such a long journey for them that by the time they reached Bethlehem, Jesus was no longer a baby in a stable, but a young child with His mother in a rented house. It may have taken them a year or more to follow the star to the Christ child. How long they must have journeyed, and far from their own homeland, to see the Light of the World.
- Shepherds. Shepherding in those days involved everyone in the land. It was not an easy task being a shepherd, leading the goats and sheep to pasturage and water. But it was a livelihood that called for diligence and endurance. Their duty was simply to stay in the fields with their sheep, which often entailed going far from home. Since sheep are defenseless animals, the shepherd had to contend with wild beasts who attacked the flock. Sometimes he had to go after a stray that had wandered off. These humble men were far from home, but at home in the fields near Bethlehem when the angelic host announced Jesus’ birth.
- Jesus Christ. He must have been the loneliest of all because He travelled the farthest distance from home. Born in a stable, most of His boyhood life was spent in obscurity in Nazareth. His ministry only lasted three to three and a half years as an itinerant preacher accompanied by twelve apostles selected from the lower class of society. Jesus once said that foxes had holes and birds had nests, but the Son of Man had no place to sleep (Luke 9:58 GW). Finally, He was betrayed by one of His own, falsely accused by the Jewish leaders, and crucified as a common criminal. He was buried in another man’s tomb. But before His death, He spoke of His Father’s home and said there were many rooms there. He said He was going to prepare a place for His own and would come again to get them so that they would always be with Him (John 14:2 NIV).
Christ was God manifested in the flesh. He left the Father’s home in the glories of Heaven, to travel to this sin-cursed earth to live, but most of all, to die. Why? So that we could enjoy all the blessings of a new life, peace, and security here on earth, and the joy of life eternal in our Heavenly Home.
Christmas is a special time when we can be in our homes with our families. But Christians are especially aware that they are away from their Heavenly Home. The Bible reminds us that we are strangers and pilgrims on this earth. This world is not our home, we are only passing through. Someday we shall sing our anthems and carols of praise in the eternal choir of the Holy City. Let us be sure that Christ has made His home in our hearts and lives. This lovely hymn by Emily Elliott expresses my thoughts for you this Christmas:
Thou didst leave Thy throne and Thy kingly crown when Thou camest to earth for me;
But in Bethlehem’s home was there found no room for Thy holy nativity.
Heaven’s arches rang when the angels sang, proclaiming Thy royal degree;
But of lowly birth didst Thou come to earth, and in great humility.
The foxes found rest and the birds their nest in the shade of the forest tree;
But Thy couch was the sod, O Thou Son of God, in the deserts of Galilee.
Thou camest, O Lord, with the living Word that should set Thy people free;
But with mocking scorn and with crown of thorn they bore Thee to Calvary.
When the heav’ns shall ring and the angels sing at Thy coming to victory,
Let Thy voice call me home, saying “Yet there is room there is room at my side for thee.
O Come to my heart, Lord Jesus there is room in my heart for Thee!