“I’ll Be Home For Christmas…”
Welcoming the Homeless God

by the Reverend Noel E. Bordador

Let me begin with a heartfelt greeting in my primary language: Maligayang Pasko! Some translate it cursorily as Merry Christmas, but if I were to translate it, I would say: May your Christmas be filled with happiness beyond your dreams and expectation. Maligayang Pasko! Let us indeed be joyful as we rejoice in the coming of God who will bring us true happiness!

In the Philippines, there is a tradition that a few hours before the Christmas Midnight Mass, a man and a woman dressed as a poor couple, portraying the part of Joseph and the pregnant Virgin Mary, emerges out of the local church and they go around town, knocking and knocking on doors of people’s homes, asking for lodging. And they do this until around midnight when this small procession returns to the church, and there the final knock is made, and the people inside the Church open the doors with great singing to let the couple in, and they make their way to the stable, and lay the image of the child Jesus on the manger.

God always knocks on our doors. God is always knocking in order to enter our lives. God is the one who is always ready to come in, to be conceived and be born again and anew in us. The infant Christ is the homeless God looking for homes in our hearts and souls. Last year, a few days before Christmas, in my capacity as a social worker, I happened to visit one of our clients in a shelter for the homeless elderly. There happened to be a Christmas party going on. While I was talking to my client, I was momentarily distracted by one of the other shelter residents who got up and sang “I’ll be home for Christmas.” I was saddened by the irony of that homeless person singing, “I’ll be home for Christmas” when there is no home for him but the shelter. While I don’t want to romanticize homelessness, what also struck me at that moment was the thought that God in Jesus has truly left the security of his heavenly home, wandered far from home, and instead, chose to be born to an earthly life filled with precariousness and vulnerability. God’s home is not in some splendid heavenly isolation after all, but God’s home is truly with us. This Christmas, may we all be reminded that God wants to be home in us to meet the hopes and dreams for full redemption and everlasting peace.

The Lord Christ is waiting for us to open the door of our hearts and our souls so he can make his home in you. His manger now is nowhere else but the manger of our hearts. There we will find him. We are summoned by the Christ to the Bethlehem within our souls, and there, we kneel and present the deepest hopes, desires and the poverty of our hearts and lives.

On Christmas, as we receive and open our gifts with our families and friends, let us remember that saying, “Good things come in small packages.” Certainly God’s greatest gift, Jesus, did not come in a big and great package. He came homeless, wrapped in swaddling clothes of a poor peasant Virgin lying in a stable. Likewise, Christ knocks on the doors of our lives through those who are easy for our society to ignore and reject- the poor, the homeless, those who suffer from mental illness, those who are in prison, and the victims of our wars. May we remember what our Savior once said, “As you do this to the least of my people, that you do unto me.” May we make a commitment beginning tonight to share our lives with the Christ in his poor.

May Jesus the Word of hope, the Prince of everlasting Peace bless you and your loved ones this Christmas and for evermore. Amen.

 

© 2005 Noel E. Bordador
Noel Bordador is a gay Filipino priest in the Episcopal Diocese of New York.


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