No Matter How Far Away We Roam…
“Home Again,” Cutler Harbor, Maine
Hopefully, as we leave this Christmas season with its bright lights and uplifting music, worship services, and warm gatherings of family and friends, we have garnered excitement for a new year.
For some, it has been a sweet time. For others, this is a difficult time of year. Unfortunate or even tragic circumstances, seemingly unending pandemic uncertainties, severe family dysfunction and disconnectedness, loneliness, or unwarranted stress and lack of simplicity may have blunted Christmas joy because much of this season’s deep specialness is due to a sense of place and of connection with people with whom we have shared life. However, even if we have had losses or have not felt the sense of belonging or of being loved, this season is a gentle reminder that we are always on God’s mind, that we are never alone, that we have the eternal gift of Emmanuel-God with us.
For those who have been fortunate enough to have had a warm place from which as fledglings they could barely wait to leave, they long to go back at least once a year to the innocence and closeness of what “used to be.” We all listen to Perry Como or the Carpenters sing about “…the man who lives in Tennessee/…heading for Pennsylvania/And some home made pumpkin pie” and that “no matter/How far away you roam/If you want/To be happy in a million ways/For the holidays, you can’t beat/Home, sweet home.” So, like the sparrows returning to Capistrano every mid March, we eagerly return in December to relive favorite, family traditions with those who still love us. Sometimes, we can only memory-travel to sweet people and years past, but often we take those “Country Roads” back to “mountain Mama” or to quiet, fishing villages in Maine, or to places about which John Denver sang, “Sometimes this old farm feels like a long lost friend/Yes, and hey, it’s good to be back home again.”
Actually, Christmas is more about leaving home than about returning, about new experiences rather than reliving the past. God, who is a historically proven, faithful promise keeper, had promised many centuries before Christ that there would be One who would take the chastisement for our sins and heal our wounds. Then in time, Christ left heaven’s safety, splendor and perfection and miraculously joined humanity in his difficult pilgrimage of love through this chaotic world only to be rebuffed by its cold evilness. (Isaiah 53) Although his advent was announced with great joy and with a promise of peace for a troubled humanity, (Luke 2:10-14) he and his message were not readily accepted, and he longed to be home with his heavenly Father, who was his constant source of joy and peace. However, divine love and purpose conquered his difficulties and homesickness.
He journeyed from Christmas to Easter through a vail of harassments and human afflictions. Only after completing the objectives designed for him, after accomplishing the will of His Father, after dealing with the difficulties and temptations of humanity, after enduring the wrath and shame of a cruel, criminal’s cross for our unholiness so that we could be at peace with God, after guaranteeing our hope of everlasting life with an astonishing resurrection, after he had done what he could, he joyfully returned home leaving us with the promise that those who will trust him will also have a heavenly home (Hebrews 12:2) ( John 14) which the Apostle Peter described as “…an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (John 14:1-6) (1 Peter 1:4-5)
Regardless of who we are, what our earthly traumas have been, what we may have done, or what our current situation may be, God understands us, values us, and has never abandoned us. His love is immeasurable. (Romans 8 :38)(John 3:16) Even in our rebellion, He mercifully opens His welcoming arms like a shepherd rescuing a wandering, lost lamb by carrying it back to the protection of the fold. He longs to be our home, our Refuge, our mighty Fortress, our Salvation.
On a special night in Bethlehem, He fulfilled that ever so distant, wonderful prophetic promise as angels declared the good, joyful news for all people that God had sent forth His Son. The Savior had been born to heal mankind, to make those who desire to to be God’s sons and daughters, to be His family. (Luke 2:10-11) (Galatians 4:4-7) That is His gracious gift to all who choose to receive it. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
That was and is great news! His love pursues us regardless of where we may roam. By faith, we arrive where we are accepted, where we were made to be–home with God.