Sunday, December 22, 2013

Jesus' Christmas Message

Before the service Darlene often fills the sanctuary with music, and this morning was especially suited to the mood. Come And Worship rang out as snowflakes fell outside, adding another blanket atop the drifts already accumulated there. This was followed by O Come All Ye Faithful.

It's the Fourth Sunday of Advent. And as Pastor Brad welcomed us he shared thoughts about home and that longing for home that is within us. How our hearts long for that "safe place" that is the essence of home.

Noted: Our Christmas Eve service will be Tuesday at 4:00 p.m.

Drake led us in several Christmas hymns and then Brad lit the fourth Advent candle. Drake also sang a song for us while the offering was taken. Then we shared a time of prayer for the various and numerous needs in our world.

Before delivering the sermon our women's choir sang a special rendition of the classic Christmas hymn Silent Night.

Jesus' Christmas Message

I don't know how long you have to be away from home before you starting longing to be back home. Brad then asked us to break into small groups and discuss a tradition that is part of our family.

Home is an evocative word. Some of you can't wait to go home for the holidays. For some it is a painful experience though. There's a gap between the ideal and the reality.

Why does the idea of home touch us so much? Why do we get homesick? Why to we long for home?

Several reasons come to mind. Home is where our story begins. We get molded there. We begin to form our identity. In the Bible the home is where children are to learn about and love God. Home is supposed to be a place that is safe. A place of rest.

It is not O.K. when a home is not a safe place.

Brad cited several lines from Robert Frost's poem "The Death of the Hired Man" to illustrate how the idea of home is bound up with grace. In the poem, an undeserving old man, a former farmhand who had abandoned his work during haying season, has now returned to find a safe place to die. The farmer and his wife debate what to do, and one line tells so much of the story: ‘Home is the place where, when you have to go there, They have to take you in.’

The old man did not deserve to have this place available to him. He had fled, had left his employer in the lurch. But the wife brings mercy into the equation. Home is a sanctuary of grace.

The first verses of the Bible are about a home God made for Adam and Eve, The Garden of Eden. What made this place home for the first couple? God was there.

After the Fall, because of sin man and woman were banished from this home.

The story of Moses is intertwined with the meaning of home. It begins as a story about exile. The people of Israel are slaves in Egypt. Moses himself for forty years lives on the backside of the desert seaprated from his people. After he returns to his people he leads them in the Exodus, then spends 40 more years wandering in the wilderness. His life ends with a visit to a mountaintop where he can see the Promised Land, his peoples' homeland, but is not permitted to enter.

Psalm 90 is written by this "homeless" man.... Verse one declares, "Lord, you have been our dwelling place (our Home) throughout all generations." In God's presence we are home. There is no safe place on this earth, only God.

Psalm 91 opens with this great statement along the same line: "He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty." And Psalm 84 opens with this declaration: "How lovely is Your dwelling place, O Lord Almighty."

Our longing for home is an echo of our longing for God.

Our human problem is that we want God, but we still want to do things our own way. There is a sense in which we are all runaways, like the prodigal son. What the son doesn't know is that his father has been looking for him every day with a broken heart. God is ever saying this: "Won't you please come home."

Brad then digressed on how weddings took place in Jesus' day, highlighting most notably that between the (arranged) betrothal and the wedding, the groom's responsibility is to prepare a place for his bride, a home. In those days, however, that home was often a room attached to the family's.

This background was used to shed light on that familiar verse in John 14. "Let not your hearts be troubled. You believe in God, believe in Me. In My father's house there are many mansions." This is the King James Version, but a better translation is "many rooms.'

Jesus was getting ready to go to the cross, but wanted them to know He was preparing a place for them, a place of safety, of belonging, of identity.

Paul wrote, "You have been bought with a price..." This is the bride price. We are the bride.

And finally, the culmination: Revelation 21.... Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.

Jesus has indeed prepared a place for you.

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