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Christmas Day - John 1:1-14

Earlier this year, Shepherd of the Valley generously sponsored seven "tiny homes" in Tarzana for children of God experiencing homelessness.

These clean, modest transitional shelters are located in one of several tiny home communities launched and managed by Hope of the Valley.

Last week, Hope of the Valley's Founder and CEO Ken Craft took to the streets with fellow executive Rowan Vansleve for one hundred hours to sample life without shelter.

Why did they do this?

Maybe it was just a publicity stunt.

Ken identified a different reason: To go to that next level of being an effective leader, I need to walk in their footsteps, he said beforehand.

I'll never know completely.

But I want to at least taste of that pain.

Ken and Rowan's taste included cold, rain, sleep deprivation, and aching feet and bodies.

They encountered kindness, generosity, ridicule, rejection, alienation, and scorn.

They learned how hard it is to find a toilet, a blanket, and a safe place to sleep.

They met a person who tried to convince them to go to Hope of the Valley, and someone else who donates to Hope of the Valley insisting that they move along.

They felt shame they couldn't explain, a loss of dignity and identity, and desperation that led to choices they would have otherwise never made.

I don't know how people do it, Rowan said less than halfway into their immersion.

At the end he said, This took me back to the heartbreak.

You can watch the documentary video about their experience at Hope of the Valley's website if you want to learn more.

For both men, the crucible of surviving the streets for a few nights reinforced their conviction

that no one deserves to live like this and their resolve to give people a pathway to shelter and dignity.

That is what the gospel of John is all about.

In my Father's house there are many dwelling places ... I go to prepare a place for you, grown-up Jesus said to his frantic friends the night before he died.

He is leaving to provide them a home after coming to secure their dignity.

The Word became flesh and pitched tent among us, John writes; to all who received him, who trusted in his name, he gave power to become children of God.

A Christmas prayer of the church puts it this way:

Almighty God, you wonderfully created and yet more wonderfully restored the dignity of human nature.

In your mercy, let us share the divine life of the one who came to share our humanity, Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord....

The point of Ken and Rowan living on the streets was not so that they would become two more homeless people; it was a small part of a much larger effort to help lead others home.

The point of Creation's Founder and CEO becoming human and pitching tent among us is part of a larger effort to restore our full humanity and lead us home.

On our streets, he met the same mixed fate: he was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him.

He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him.

But to all who received him, who trusted in his name, he gave power to become children of God.

He became what we are that we might become what he is, Saint Athanasius taught.

Jesus camped in our valley and survived about thirty years before the authorities cracked down and crucified him to maintain public peace and wellbeing, law and order.

So he knows what rejection and alienation feel like.

He knows what a crapshoot mix of compassion and cruelty this world is.

He knows the heartbreak.

And he also knows something we don't.

He knows the difference it makes to have a real home.

He knows what it is like to live with God instead of the fleeting fascinations and cardboard idols we settle for.

So this baby wrapped in rags in Bethlehem's barn will spend his life working and fighting to get widows off the streets, and lepers back into community, and those captured by demons into sanity, and all kinds of people surviving on the brink into the safety and security demanded by their dignity as beloved children of God.

He is determined to outlast and overcome the darkness, deep and relentless as it is, inside of us and also around us.

John the Baptizer calls it taking away the sin of the world.

The church likes to call it salvation.

Ken and Rowan and their team call it hope.

But it can't be put into words.

Instead, the Word is put into it ... the eternal, unchanging Word changes into mortal humanity, the speech that created everything is translated into weathered eyes and skin, the Voice from the sky is now a face on the street, which makes every face sacred and every life preciously holy.

O come, let us adore him.

O come, let us adore our neighbor, our nuisance, our fear, our frustration, our friend, our family, our fellow human being, by any and every name, Christ the Lord.

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