Later this month I will celebrate my first Christmas in Toronto in 20 years. As I look forward to the wonderful occasion of our Lord’s birth there is strange sense of nostalgia, for I have come home for Christmas. In a very real way I think that all of us come home for Christmas — if not physically then certainly spiritually. On Christmas Eve our churches will be full as people come in from the darkness to encounter the light. They come not simply because of family history or tradition but to search for that sense of home that a Christian community can provide. On that first Christmas the Holy Family also had to search.
The searching can be frustrating and painful. As Mary and Joseph tried to locate a place for Jesus to be born they came face to face with a harsh “no” from many. Perhaps the innkeeper was busy attending to the pilgrims, or the religious ones were preparing for a synagogue service to worry about the people at the door. So often our arms are so loaded down or our minds occupied that we ignore the stranger or the family member that is seeking faith, joy, or reconciliation.
A parish discovered this truth at their midnight mass one year in a dramatic way. As the community arrived for worship they found a disheveled couple on the steps of the church begging. A few gave them something, some complained to the wardens, but most simply walked by, wishing they would go away and worried what the visitors would think of this annoyance. The liturgy began in all of the beauty and splendour that was called for by the solemnity. The sermon was titled “An Illustrated Christmas Story.” The church was darkened, Silent Night began and from the darkness the couple from the church steps came up the aisle. Tears flowed from many at that moment as they realized the deepest meaning of the Gospel story.
Many people will come this Christmas to our families, our churches and our communities. They come as seekers looking for Christ to be born in their hearts minds and souls. They have faced and experienced “no” many times before yet still they come. The loveliness of Christmas is the gift of self. A child in the manger showed us that in humility and poverty grace abounds. May those who are seeking find in us the openness and willingness not to be distracted by the busyness of Christmas but to be the people who say yes, you are welcomed, you are loved and you are blessed.
Archbishop Andrew Hutchison is primate of the Anglican Church of Canada.