Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David.

When we tell the birth story of Jesus, we speak of this unlikely couple with a very unlikely pregnancy; a trip to Bethlehem with its inhospitable outcome; a birth, a manger, and attending angels and shepherds.

I don’t know about you, but I never really pay attention to the traveling. I don’t give it a second thought.

What if it is more than set up? What if we take it as truly important? The holy family journeyed to their homeland, taking their place for the census.

Some of us journey for the holidays. Driving, flying, riding in trains and buses. Waiting in terminals. Sleeping on benches. Going somewhere. A home? To family? Perhaps to (too?) distant family, the travel an obligation.

And how many of us stay where we are? How many of us go nowhere for the holiday?

The idyllic picture of Christmas is family all together, a tree full of ornaments made and collected over a lifetime, presents in a variety of states of unwrap, a fire in the fireplace. It is a picture of home, warmth, safety. Pretty much the opposite of the first Christmas.

And yet, this special, holy family made home and warmth and safety where they were.

Perhaps too many of us live with the safety of the idyllic Christmas and need the opportunity to make one.

As for the rest of us, we have great company in our discomfort: the holy family were without a home, a bed, safety.

He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

Jesus came anyway. Not at home, safe, maybe with Mary’s mother there to help her. It was here Jesus came. A baby with no home, no safety but his mother’s arms. No expensive swaddling blanket, but bands of cloth. No crib, but a manger.

They made home where they were.

The spirit of Christmas, the Holy Spirit, is about home-making in the most basic sense. Making home from the uninhabitable. Making home with the family we have. Making home where there is always room: even for strays and the unclean. Making home even when we are far from home, in body or spirit.

Giving presents, singing carols, eating figgy pudding aren’t themselves  Christmas. They’re the tools which help us make home.

Wherever you are and wherever your family might be, I pray you invite the Spirit in to help make home with you. That you have family and warmth and safety.

Peace be with you and your entire family,


The Rev. Andrew Downs

20th Rector of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church