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COMING HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS - PART III

A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH

AND

THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS

13 DECEMBER 1992

By: Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES:

Isaiah 35:7-10
Matthew 2:10
Luke 2:10-11
John 17:13

Have you really considered all that you have to do for this holiday season?

Do you really have enough time in which to do everything?

Isn't it time you start worrying about something?

Is there someone missing in your life – someone that you wish was here for the season – and you feel lonely because they're not here?

If these are the kinds of things we're thinking about, to the exclusion of the true meaning of Christmas, we're most likely losing the joy that Christmas stands for.

And I know that God doesn't want this to happen to us, for He gave us His Son and this season of remembrance so that we would indeed rejoice.

This isn't saying that we're to ignore all the problems in the world, today, and all of the suffering inflicted upon millions of our fellow human beings and tens of billions of animals.

What we're talking about is that the gift of Jesus Christ must be viewed from a different perspective: a solution to our problems and anxieties.

We can tell when this loss of joy is happening to us, for we start to lose our temper more easily. We are more tired. And we are beginning to wish the season had never begun or was already over.

The funny thing is that Christmas was given to us in order to free us from all of this anxiety.

Do you remember what the angel said to the shepherds about the birth of Jesus in Luke 2:10-11?

10. And the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which shall be for all the people;

11. for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

The Christmas season is a time to remember that we have been given a Savior to free us from all of the hustle and bustle of this world, and from all of its strife and misery.

This is good news, and this news should fill us with great joy.

If we don't feel this way, then stop for a minute and notice the Christ child.

Stoop down and pick Him up.

Hold Him tightly against you so he can't slip free, as a mother holding her infant, and let Him grow in your heart.

Hold Him! Really hold Him! Don't set Him down yet! Continue to hold Him, and feel His life become one with you.

And while we're doing this, do you also remember what happened to the wise men when they were looking for the Christ child, as recorded in Matthew 2:10?

10. And when they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great Joy.

Slow down a little, or perhaps stop altogether, and take note of the stars; particularly the one pointing to the Lord.

And as you lower your eyes once again back to earth, let your eyes focus in the Lord's direction.

Look past all of the glitz and hype we have brought into this season.

Notice the love in Jesus' eyes.

Remember His Father’s love that sent Him to us.

Do you remember what Jesus prayed about His disciples before He was arrested, as recorded in John 17:13?

13. "But now I come to Thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy made full in themselves.

Jesus left us His joy, so that we would live in it fully and completely, without exception, every hour of every day; and most particularly, at this time of the year.

Don't let anyone or anything take this joy away from us.

Christ will come again!

Remember, as we said before, this isn't saying that we to ignore all of the problems and suffering in this world.

This is saying that with Jesus Christ we should be working to end all of these problems and all of the suffering inflicted upon humans and other animals.

He is our Savior and Redeemer, and in Him all things will once again be made right and beautiful.

In Isaiah 35:7-10, the prophet speaks of this redemption, so that we would find joy in it – back then, as well as now.

7. And the scorched land will become a pool,
And the thirsty ground springs of water;
In the haunt of jackals, its resting place,
Grass becomes reeds and rushes.

Everything that has dried up in our lives, and in the lives of others, will again be moist and lush and green.

Where there was death, there will be life; not only for us, but also for every other living being on earth.

And this means that we have to stop contributing to death.

Where and when we felt there was no hope, there will be hope.

Why?

Because we are working to make this a more gentle and peaceful world to the glory of God.

8. And a highway will be there, a roadway,
And it will be called the Highway of Holiness.
The unclean will not travel in it,
But it will be for him who walks that way,
And fools will not wander on it.

Let us pause for a moment and smell the flowers. And if I may add a personal note, this is one area about which I constantly need to be reminded.

Do you see the flowers in all their splendor – lush and tall and green and colorful, even at this time of the year?

Do you see them alongside the road you're traveling upon?

For if you do, you are most likely upon the road that will lead you home for the greatest of all holidays.

And have you noticed that on this road there are no drunk or crazy drivers, and there is no litter anywhere?

Have you noticed the smiles of joy on each other’s faces?

If you can't see these things, you've made a wrong turn somewhere back there, for you're not on the Highway of Holiness.

9. No lion will be there,
Nor will any vicious beast go up on it;
These will not be found there.
But the redeemed will walk there,

Now we're not talking about real lions or other vicious beasts, for they know better than to come out into the open and upon the roadways; for it they so ventured, someone would pick up a gun and shoot them ... No, we're talking about people who try to devour other people.

But then again, the people who travel this road wouldn't have guns, and they wouldn't have any desire to kill, and neither would these wild animals.

Death and suffering entered this world because of human disobedience.

Such people will not be upon the Highway of Holiness, for they are not ready to come home; they are not ready for peace; they do not have any joy in their hearts.

But upon this road home will be all those whose hearts and minds are filled with love and peace and joy to the extent that there are no limits or exceptions.

Upon this road will be those who truly want to give of themselves to help others, and not take advantage of them.

Upon this road will be those who truly love all of God's creation, and would never think of hurting anyone, whether human or non-human, or any thing.

10. And the ransomed of the Lord will return,
And come with joyful shouting to Zion,
With everlasting joy upon their heads.
They will find gladness and joy,
And sorrow and sighing will flee away.

Let each of us look at ourselves, and ask ourselves, "What am I really looking for this holiday season, and what do I wish to receive?"

I really pray that what we are looking for and what we want are not material things, but spiritual things.

Isn't receiving the true and unconditional love of someone worth more than any material gift?

What more could you give to someone, than to give of yourself, as God did when He gave us His Son; and as Jesus did, when He gave of Himself, that we might be forgiven and redeemed and have everlasting life.

Such a gift should fill you with joy and hope for a better tomorrow.

Look around! Do you see someone who has lost their way? Do you see someone who is so caught up in the material things of this season that they have lost their direction?

Let's reach out to these people, and the lonely ones, and the homeless ones, both people and animals, for we are all God's creatures; and offer them our love and comfort and companionship.

The love of God will bless us more than them; for together, we will be coming home for the holidays.

Merry Christmas!

Amen.

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