One of my favorite Christmas carols begins with the line, “O, come all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant.” I imagine shepherds and wise men singing these words and asking others to join them as they visit the newborn and long-expected Savior. It is an invitation to gather around Jesus to celebrate his coming. Come all you faithful.
But what about the not-so-faithful? Are they invited as well? Can only the joyful and triumphant come to Jesus? If so the guest list will be remarkably small. Even those who are the most enthusiastic about Jesus are at times unfaithful. We all fail to live up to our own standards, let alone God’s. We’ve all felt defeated. Honestly, some of us find ourselves here quite often.
As we read the gospels we find that the invitation is much broader than the faithful and joyful. There we see that it is Christ himself who does the inviting. Jesus reveals that his kingdom and his table and his grace are for all people. That he came for the whole world and he invites any and all to come to him. Jesus embodies a love that is for people wherever and whoever they may be.
Sometimes we don’t communicate that message very well. Sometimes we exclude folks who are messy or who sin differently than we do. Sometimes we find it difficult to make room for people who aren’t just like us. Sometimes we act as if we’ve been faithful when we haven’t. Sometimes we pretend to be joyful and triumphant when we are anything but. Sometimes our behavior builds barriers between Jesus and the people he loves.
But Jesus is better than that. And its his party, not ours. And he says you’re invited.
So yes, come all ye faithful. And come all ye not so faithful too.
Come all you who feel defeated and who feel hopeless.
Come all who are worn out and carry heavy burdens.
Come you who are stressed and at the end of your rope.
Come all who feel dirty and unlovable.
Come you who grieve.
Come wise men with gifts fit for a king.
And come drummer boys with nothing of value to bring.
Come lepers and tax collectors and prostitutes.
Come you who feel overlooked or pushed out or rejected.
Come shepherds and doctors and inn keepers and waitresses.
Come people from every tribe and every tongue. Come young and old.
Come you who feel betrayed. And you have done the betraying.
Come all who blew it this year. And last year.
Come doubters and skeptics. Come with your questions and your intellect.
Come all who hunger and thirst for something more.
Come all of you with baggage.
Come all of you with fear.
Come you with broken hearts and shattered dreams.
Come you have already quit. And those who wish they could.
Come refugees and CEOs.
Come you who are enemies. Come you who are strangers.
Come you anxious and come you hiding behind a mask.
Come you who can barely muster a prayer and you who cry out daily.
Come wanderers and seekers, legalists and charlatans.
Come me. Come you.
“Come and behold him, born the King of Angels.”
Come and see that the Lord is good.
Come and find hope and help and healing.
Come find rest.
Come and find meaning.
Come and find belonging, find family.
Come find forgiveness and salvation.
Come and find light.
Come find a fresh start.
Come and find grace.
Come and find Jesus. He is Christ the Lord.
When you come you will find that he is better than we have demonstrated and more marvelous than we deserve. He is trustworthy and he is true. He is for us. He is with us.
And you, whoever you are and wherever you’re at or however you feel, are invited. Come.