Summary: Because we all long to belong, we will be homeless until we find our home with God.
Christmas Questions: Destiny
“Home for Christmas”
Rev. Brian Bill
On December 17th, 1903, after four attempts, the Wright Brothers flew their “flying machine” for the first time. Wilbur rushed to the local telegraph office and sent the following message: “We have flown for 12 seconds – will be home for Christmas!” Upon receiving the telegram, their sister Katherine went to the newspaper office and told them the news. Two days later, the local paper placed the following headline on page six: “Wright brothers home for Christmas.”
Amazingly, being home for Christmas trumped their flight feat. Sure, they were the first to fly, but it was even more important that they were coming home. I’ve been asked “Are you going home for Christmas” repeatedly this week. And I’ve asked others the same question. Why is that? There’s something deep within each of us that longs to belong to a place called home.
This past Wednesday I was the chaperone for four eighth grade girls from Pontiac Christian School while they rang the Salvation Army bell outside a local business. Not surprisingly, there were no “Happy Holiday” greetings coming from them; only “Merry Christmas.”
This particular store was playing Christmas music and I noticed that even secular songs speak of a yuletide yearning.
* “I’ll Be Home For Christmas,” written during World War II, captures that longing to be home, especially for soldiers serving overseas. Even if they couldn’t come home, they would be there in their dreams. [Go up to stage set where couple is missing their son]
* “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” also speaks of a time long ago when our expectations of a white and wonderful Christmas were met…or were they?
Our songs and sentiments speak of a yearning for what we have yet to experience or as one person said, “The longing for things that have never happened.” It’s no secret that not everyone is merry about Christmas. While most shoppers smiled at the students and put their shekels in the kettle, one man told them to stop ringing those “bleepity bleep bells.” Later on, a weary woman walked by with a big frown on her face and said to the cheery teens, “Bah, Humbug!” She muttered something about shopping and trudged off to her car.
Barbara Brown Taylor catches the flavor of our tendency to romanticize Christmas: “Every Christmas Eve functions like a kind of time machine for us, taking us back to every other Christmas Eve we’ve spent on this earth. For some…it’s the smell of pine…and…the taste of roast turkey…it is mom and dad sitting around in their bathrobes sipping coffee while the kids chase the new puppy through a sea of wrapping paper. For others, this night is a reminder of the way life should have been but never was – those who have looked all their lives through other people’s windows at such scenes of domestic bliss, but…never as an insider.”
Some of you can’t wait to go home for Christmas and others of you, like the college student in our drama, are afraid to be with your family because home is not a happy place. Some of you are dreading the day because a loved one will be gone from the table. I know this will be the first Christmas in our family where cancer has made an unwelcome appearance.
Some of you even feel “homeless” this holiday season as you worry and wonder about the status of the Pontiac Correctional Center. You might be happy or you might feel horrible. Christmas might be warm or just plain weird. Your home might be beautiful or it may be broken; you may be filled with delight or you’re already getting ready to be disappointed. John Ortberg suggests that there’s the home we long for and the home we have – and there’s always a gap between them.
We all know that Joseph and Mary were away from home that first Christmas. In Matthew 1:20, Joseph is told to “take Mary home as his wife” but that didn’t last long because they had to bounce down to Bethlehem. The shepherds, because of the nature of their work, were far from home. As we learned last week, the wise men had wandered away from home so they could worship King Jesus. The family of Jesus set up their home in Bethlehem for awhile and then fled to Egypt and then back to Judea and finally ended up in Nazareth. Later Jesus made Capernaum his home base, but during his ministry, the Bible says that Jesus had no “place to lay his head.” And Jesus was literally far from home when He was here because he came all the way from heaven.
Because we all long to belong, we will be homeless until we find our home with God. There’s a longing for home inside each of us that no human home can satisfy. This week I discovered that the word “home” is used 186 times in the Bible. As I studied this further I saw that one can make a distinction between the Old Testament and the New Testament. Let’s look first at a few passages from the Old Testament where we learn that…