A Catholic Monthly Magazine

Christmas Homecoming

Fr Kevin Bates sm

'Homecoming' is a word we often associate with Christmas, as families gather, re-connect and celebrate. There is something warming about the thought of homecoming, something settling, something healing and wholesome.

In September 2017, the United Nations' Refugee Agency reported that there are 65.6 million people forcibly displaced worldwide, there are 22.5 million refugees, 10 million stateless people, and that a mere 189,300 refugees were resettled in 2016.

Jesus’ coming is meant to be a homecoming for all peoples. That is pretty clearly God’s idea in sending his Son among us. We’ve had plenty of time to get used to the idea, and yet poverty and homelessness seem to be spiralling out of control everywhere we look.

In response, we can be paralysed by a sort of first-world guilt and throw lots of money at ‘the problem’ whenever we are confronted by the inconvenience of people without homes or hope. We can just as easily turn a blind eye and distract ourselves with other issues, as we are wealthy enough to have the sorts of choices denied to the homeless and stateless people, and can find plenty to grab our attention in less confronting ways. We can retreat into a certain homecoming which closes doors behind it, and the sounds of the hungry can fade from our minds.

Then again, we can just as easily celebrate our coming home this Christmas to a table with at least one spare place set there to welcome a stranger, someone who will not know the joy of homecoming at this time unless we show them how it’s done.

Jesus’ birth in a stable is no accident of birth! His birth reveals something of God’s challenging humour. As we are all charmed by the thoughts of sheep, goats and cattle wandering the stable as Jesus is born, with a few hoary shepherds looking on, there’s no way we’d think of letting any of them into our dining area! Jesus’ birth story at once charms and confronts.

Jesus is born as one without a home. Let each one of us make some room for him at our table this Christmas time, one way or another. Between us all we can continue to make quite a difference to the shape of the homeless hearts around us and beyond us.

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