By Rev Brett Jones
About this time of year, the great debate starts. What is the greatest Christmas movie of all time? There are plenty of contenders with some of them even being actual Christmas movies. There are the old classics like Miracle On 34th Street or White Christmas. Or the new classics like The Grinch or Elf. But then there are those movies whose claim to Christmas fame seems to be that they happen at Christmas rather than being about Christmas like Die Hard, Love Actually or Home Alone. This year Home Alone stands out as one of those movies with a particular 2021 echo. Not that any of us have actually had the opportunity to be on a flight to Paris, only to realise we left “Kevin” at home!
It’s not because many parents have enjoyed the “peace on earth” moments of finally having their kids head back to school. Home alone has never been so good! It’s not because we all spent way too much time home alone, for many a testing experience of isolation. It’s not because family reunions are still a way off for some, with New Zealand still home alone when it comes to international travel. It’s not even because we shared our own “KEVIN” moment when we realised we were headed back to lockdown. It’s because this year many of us will share precious moments of reconnection with family and friends as the country opens up.
That moment of family reconnection in the original Home Alone movie sits at the centre of human experience. We were made for connection. It’s one of the reasons why lockdowns are so difficult for us. We were made for connection with each other. But the greatest Christmas story of all time (before we even had the word) makes the same point about connection. We were made for connection with God. Now it’s not that God had his own “Kevin” moment and realised he had left humanity home alone. God has pursued us throughout the course of history.
The Judeo Christian origin account found in Genesis paints a picture of intimate connection between God and humanity that is only broken when humanity decides to go its own way. We’ve been hiding ever since. The stories of the Jewish Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob all speak to this pursuit of humanity. Jacob, on the run, in the wake of dysfunctional parental relationships and a sibling rivalry that started in the womb, encounters the pursuing God who promises, I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go… (Genesis 28:15).
This is the central promise of the Bible: I am with you, I will never leave you, you don’t have to do this, alone. The Bible throws out a big hint that this God is going to do something unique in Isaiah 7:14: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” Immanuel, literally ‘God with us.’ It’s a long wait, nearly 800 years between these words of the prophet Isaiah and the arrival of Jesus. But the wait is over.
The Christmas story is a story of reconnection with its own Home Alone moment. Except, there’s a reversal. It’s Jesus who embraces the home alone experience that we might be reconnected with God. It’s Jesus who embraces the vulnerability of coming to us as a baby, born into a low-status family in a nation struggling under the colonising influence of the Roman empire. It’s Jesus who lives his early life as a refugee escaping Herod’s attempts to procure a political assassination. It’s Jesus who becomes flesh and blood and moves into the neighbourhood. So that we never need to be home alone again.
This Christmas you are invited to join with thousands of Christians across the Howick Ward who will be living out the reality of connection with each other and God as they gather for Christmas services. Some will be gathering online, others in-person, but however the connection is being made, you are welcome. That each one of us might not be home alone this Christmas.
- Rev Brett Jones is pastor to Cession Community and part of the East Auckland Ministers Association. East Auckland Ministers Association includes over 70 churches in the wider Howick area. This Christmas, Howick churches are looking forward to gathering in-person and online. You’re welcome to join us.