Let us build a house where love can dwell and all can safely live,
a place where saints and children tell how hearts learn to forgive.
Built of hopes and dreams and visions, rock of faith and vault of grace;
here the love of Christ shall end divisions:
All are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place.
(from hymn 'All Are Welcome', by Marty Haugen)
I have been watching as part of a house gets built near us, these past weeks. I always enjoy this. Watching it, and doing it. One week there's a hole in the ground, mud and ice, then a footing is poured, cement and steel bars, and it's level and solid (if the workers are sober and skilled) so that everything above it will be level and solid. And as the days pass a thing takes shape, and one day soon people will move around inside it - make a coffee, greet a friend, dream a dream, embrace a lover. The prophet Isaiah understood rightly when he spoke a word of comfort to the exiles : 'You will build houses and live in them...'
The messages this week in the readings are a bit of a riff on this. I'm still mulling it over, and one way or another I'll have some observations tomorrow morning, but Luke the gospel writer was pretty sure that Jesus was going to be a member of the 'House of David', and this would be part of the intention of God to get the world back to 'level and solid'. Just and compassionate. Peaceful and joyous.
As is sometimes the case, this past week has not been entirely level, solid, just, compassionate, peaceful and joyous. Unfathomable murder in Pakistan and it's another Christmas and we again have soldiers in far off places, and while we've fed the good people at CRC again we still haven't made a big dent in poverty. Maybe all of this amounts not only to homelessness, but to 'Houselessness'. And the perennial message of the birth of Jesus is in front of us again, it is an invitation : Come into my house. In fact, BE my house. Walk with me, and we will raise up the valleys, make the rough places smooth, and be a House where love may dwell.
It really is our only story. Let's come together and tell it again. Merry Christmas, and either here, or wherever you are, a joyous Christmas, and peace to you all.
(photo courtesy Habitat For Humanity International. Kathy Norris in Haiti, 2011)