Thursday, December 21, 2006

Christmas Homily 2006

I am amused that people regularly ask me if I like Miami. Nobody asked me that in Dallas or St. Louis when I was new to those cities. I think it's because Anglos are 18% of the population here. In fact, I have not yet met an Anglo who likes Miami but did not grow up here, except my wife.

I don't want to go into all the issues that we could get into -- issues religious, sociological, theological, social, political, and otherwise. Simply, I want to say that most of us know what it means to be surrounded by people who are quite different than us. All of us know what it's like to be in a place where we say, "I don't feel like I belong here. This is strange to me." Sometimes we like this kind of adventure, but usually not for long. A short-term trip to another culture is adventurous, but nobody seeks to be "out-of-place" for a lifetime.

In the touristy cities of Costa Rica, they accept American dollars in the stores. That makes things feel more comfortable for the Americans seeking adventure. The signs in English are carefully crafted so as to communicate clearly while still retaining a sense that the sign maker struggles with the English language. Apparently that's what gives Americans the proper sense of "other-worldliness" without being too threatening. A controlled adventure. All of us control our adventures to one degree or another.

For the sake of a greater cause, we might risk more. I went to Mexico on a missions trip as a teenager. I happily suffered bowel problems for the sake of the gospel. Though my motives might not have been pure, I am more likely to risk bowel problems if I am accomplishing something great.

There was, one time, a man who risked everything. There was no control to his adventure. No ejection seat should things go wrong. In fact, he meant them to go wrong . . . for himself, so that the greatest thing ever accomplished might come true. And all our sad days would turn to gold, our tears into diamonds, and our death into the path to paradise.

At Christmas, Jesus entered the ultimate "feeling out-of-place" experience so that one day, because of his death, we would enter the ultimate "I am really home" experience forever. On that day, we will look back at the most glorious and secure experiences of this life and think, "How insignificant! We had no idea what home really was!"

We are strangers in a strange land. And one day, Jesus will come and turn this strange land into his home. And because it will be his home, it will be our home too.

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