Our Homecoming

Sunday I had the joy and privilege of preaching at Watts Chapel UMC in celebration of their 120 anniversary.  Using the Jeremiah 33:14-16 text from the Lectionary (yes, I do on rare occasions use the Lectionary!), I shared the thesis – “His (meaning Christ’s) coming is our homecoming”.  You may recall that Jeremiah offers one of the great advent text’s for our edification.  “The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: "The LORD is our righteousness" (Jeremiah 33:14-16). Monday, with no intention on my part, the theme of homecoming continued.  I traveled to Graham for the Service of Death and Resurrection in honor and memory of Rev. Jay Darnell, Jr. Settling in my pew, after pausing for prayer, I read the following words that Jay himself had written some 5 years ago: “Since I went to the altar, I’ve buried my father and mother three weeks apart… …4 of the most beautiful girls you’ve ever met – my sisters … … 4 brother-in-laws… … 1 son, Gary… …A wife of 61 years… And I’ve been through all that, And I’ve gone to Him and gone to Him and gone to Him… And He’s always said, “Jay, leave it here with me.” That’s all I know to tell you. That’s the only things I know. But I’ll stand ‘til my dying day and say to the world, ‘You’ll find the peace that passes all understanding and the joy that Jesus Christ wants us to have when you make that connection with Jesus Christ.’ There’s no other way. The way of the cross leads home. There’s no other way.”  (Rev. Jay Darnell, in a message preached at FUMC Graham, July 2007) November 26 at about 7 pm, this great saint of the church went home. This theme of Advent/Christmas homecoming runs still deeper.  I think the Christmas season, the time of preparation the church calls Advent, invokes a spiritual homesickness within us.  In fact that spiritual homesickness is a general part of the moral malaise of our culture.  St. Augustine put it so well when he prayed, “Thou hast made us for Thyself and our souls are restless until they find their rest in Thee.”  Somehow we instinctively know that apart from God, we are far from home. The incarnation is about God making a home with us.  Think of the language which Holy Scripture uses.  “The Word became flesh and made his home among us” (John 1:14).  “I heard a loud voice from the throne say, “Look! God’s dwelling is here with humankind. He will dwell with them, and they will be his peoples. God himself will be with them as their God” (Revelation 21:3). The author, poet and Christian theologian G. K. Chesterton caught this truth in his classic poem “The House of Christmas.” “To an open house in the evening Home shall men come, To an older place than Eden And a taller town thanRome; To the end of the way of the wandering star, To the things that cannot be and that are, To the place where God was homeless And all men are at home.” Christ’s coming really is our homecoming!