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COMING HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS - PART IV

A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
AND
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS

20 DECEMBER 1992

By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES:

Isaiah 60:18-20
Romans 1:1-7

Corning home for the holidays involves an attitude, but that attitude can be either positive or negative.

If a family, two parents and the kids, decides to go to visit the home of one of their parents for the holidays, they all have to agree which family they will visit, or one or more will not be happy.

This is particularly true when some members of the greater family don't get along with each other, and in this case there is little peace.

But when our coming home is to the Lord, it doesn't involve a family decision; it is based solely on our own personal attitude and decision.

If we fight against going home, or simply with the Lord's desire for us to follow Him, the decision is made for us, and our invitation is withdrawn until we change our attitude.

Until then, our life remains stressful, or at least more stressful than it has to be.

Now, on the other hand, if the desire of our heart is to go home and live with the Lord, even now, while we are still earthbound, then the road before us becomes smooth, and we find ourselves at peace.

And in this peace, our life reflects our decision, and we just naturally testify of God's interaction in our life, as if He were a close personal friend, which He is – if we let Him.

In the beginning of Paul's letter to the Romans, he expresses this assurance and peace.

He also tries to let others understand that this peace is theirs, too, if they truly desire it.

As we read Romans 1:1-7, listen carefully and note the Christmas message of peace, even though it's not written for Christmas time, and it's written before there was a Christmas celebration.

And as a little side note, I must be somewhat as Paul was, in that I also have a tendency to write in run-on sentences; for all seven of his verses are one sentence.

1. Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God,

2. which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures,

3. concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh,

4. who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord,

5. through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles, for His name's sake,

6. among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ;

7. to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints; Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul is speaking about His own call home, as an apostle; but at the same time, he is also speaking of God's call to all of us as well.

Aren’t we also to be set apart for the gospel, as Paul was?

Of course we are; for the gospel is the good news about Jesus Christ, and it was proclaimed by many of the prophets in the Bible.

Paul further emphasizes this when he reminds us of the fact that his apostleship was to bring this same message to the Gentiles, "among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ." We are to receive it as any other Christmas present.

Yes, each and every one of us has been called, but have we all responded? And in case we haven't in the past, we are being reminded today.

Don't let the invitation to come home pass you up again.

Or if we have turned aside, let it be the call to get us back on the right road.

For we have all – yes, all of us – been called as saints; yes – saints.

This is God's grace, and in this grace is our true and eternal peace.

Receive it!

Hear His personal call to you, and receive it. Use it!

For if we receive this eternal peace, we will have inner peace now, no matter how bad things may be around us.

And as more and more people receive this eternal peace, they will together enhance each other's peace here and now.

Listen to what Isaiah says of this eternal peace in 60:18-20.

18. "Violence will not be heard again in your land,
Nor devastation or destruction within your borders;
But you will call your walls salvation, and your gates praise.

Haven't we all cut our fingers?

Did they stay cut, or did they heal?

We know that a cut will heal, because we have seen it heal before.

But the first time we experienced a cut finger, and someone told us that it would heal, we may not have totally believed it, even though we should have believed.

Our existence here on earth has been similarly cut open by sin, and it has not been allowed to heal yet; but God's word tells us that it will.

Shouldn't we at least believe this promise as easily as we believe our finger will heal?

And, remember that if we don't protect our finger and treat the wound, it could become infected and not heal.

So, healing also involves some action from us, doesn't it?

And, the same applies to our part in the healing of this earth, and ending the violence, for God also seems to work His promises through His people.

For this promise, too, is also from God who made us to heal.

Just think of how it will be then:

19. "No longer will you have the sun for light by day,
Nor for brightness will the moon give you light;
But you will have the Lord for an everlasting light,
And your God for your glory.

20. "Your sun will set no more,
Neither will your moon wane;
For you will have the Lord for an everlasting light,
And the days of your mourning will be finished.

Did you ever feel gloomy when the day was overcast and rainy?

You never have to be gloomy again.

We won't even have to worry about a light bulb burning out, for we won't even have light bulbs.

And these are small things.

The big problems will also disappear.

All of this should give us peace – real peace.

So if something is wrong now, try your best to look beyond it, for things will get better. God is here promising us that it will, and we should believe it.

But we have to do our part, too.

The next time something happens that bothers you, remember this promise and retain your peace.

And, at the same time, we need to ask ourselves, "What can I do to solve this problem and help usher in God's peace?"

Christmas and Christ are here to remind us of this gift of peace, so that we would carry it through the new year, and every year, until one day we receive our eternal peace.

May you truly have this peace in Christ this Christmas season.

Amen.

Your Comments are welcome

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