In the car together last night, my daughter implored me to stop playing Christmas music as she is “over it.” It seems she is not alone. Here on the 28th of December, most of the world has moved on from Christmas. The radio stations dedicated to Christmas and holiday (and, let’s be honest, odd “winter”) music, have returned to their regular programing. Fewer ads feature holiday settings. I guess that might be part of what happens when all the Christmas music, ads, and specials start airing on November 1st.
However, in the Christian church world, Christmas is not just a day but a season. A 12 day season, as you may have heard a time or two. (The McKenzie Brothers version is still the best.) That’s my excuse anyway for post this message I originally sent to our congregation a few days before Christmas.
How much of our Christmas and end-of-year holidays are about home?
Being home or going home or providing a home. Maintaining traditions from home; developing new traditions for a home; or simply longing for home. If we’re grieving the death of a loved one, even our home might not feel like home right now.
Did you ever notice that one version of the Christmas story (not to be confused with A Christmas Story) has a home and the other version—much more famously—does not?
I love that both versions are part of our biblical cannon. Including two totally divergent tales of Jesus’ birth is yet another way our biblical writers and compilers have of indicating that the Jesus story is meant for everyone: Those comfortably at home and those in search of a place to call home.
(For that matter, include the Gospel of Mark’s complete lack of a birth narrative, and we could reasonably say the Jesus story is also meant for those utterly uninterested in Christmas!)
Homes are inextricably tied to our Christmas observances and celebrations. I’m so grateful for both the home I grew up in with my parents and the home Joann and I continue to create for our family! But I ask you to take a moment to consider those for whom home is not a joyous, festive place this season.
If you are feeling lonely, lost, or sad, our Longest Night worship service is for you. If God feels far away, our Longest Night worship service is for you. If this shortest day of the year just has you feeling down or blue, our Longest Night worship service is for you. (That’s why it is sometimes called a Blue Christmas service.)
Finally, as a way to help young people experiencing homelessness, please consider making a financial gift to our Christmas Offering. As you (hopefully) read in Pastor Danita’s Christmas letter earlier this week, 10% of that offering (our tithe as a congregation) will go to The Covenant House.
Why did we choose The Covenant House this year?
In 34 cities — including Chicago — across six countries, more than 2,000 young people sleep in a Covenant House bed each night. No one is ever turned away without support of some kind. And our services and programs are available at no cost. That means, since 1972 Covenant House has opened its doors to over 1.5 million young people experiencing homelessness and trafficking.
Why are so many youth and young people experiencing homelessness? As Covenant House reminds us:
Many complex factors increase a young person’s chances of experiencing homelessness. Demographic risk factors for becoming homeless include being Black, Hispanic, or Indigenous; parenting and unmarried; or LGBTQ+. Children raised in poverty and youth lacking a high school diploma or equivalency also have a higher risk of homelessness.
I can’t hardly express how much I hate that so many queer kids are unsafe or unwelcome in their family of origin’s home. Further, most often those homes are unsafe because the parents buy into the bigoted teachings of some Christian churches. Honestly, if it weren’t for Christians leading the crusade, would there even be an anti-LGBTQ+ movement?? Our congregation aims to be a corrective (however small) to that vile rhetoric.
One of our long-term goals is to make our cities safer, more equitable, and thus more just for everybody. Until we reach that goal, however, there is an immediate need for safe shelter, care, and support for all kinds of young people. Partnering with Covenant House helps meet those needs.
This Christmas, let’s help make a home for all of God’s children.