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COMING HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS

A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH

AND

THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS

29 NOVEMBER 1992

By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES:

Psalm 122:1-9
Isaiah 2:1-4

On Thanksgiving Day, Mary and I drove down to Camp Epworth, where we celebrated Thanksgiving with more than 120 other people.

The meal we ate was strictly vegetarian. It contained no meat or other animal products.

The festive celebration had no death of any kind involved with it.

There was no pain or suffering to bring it about.

It was as close as one can get to what it will be like in heaven.

And as we were driving there, we saw many cars on the road, filled with people who were going home for the holiday.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized there is a greater home waiting for all of us to come home to, if we want to do so.

As we enter the Christmas season, and as we look to the advent of Christ's second coming, we should also hopefully look forward to our coming home for the greatest of all holidays.

And if our heart and soul and spirit are set upon that journey, then we have entered the sphere of God's grace, and we can enjoy part of that homecoming now.

In Psalm 122, David wrote a psalm of ascent into the house of God in the city of Jerusalem; but if we care to see it, he is also writing for us the hope of one day entering a higher city and a higher home.

1. I was glad when they said to me,
"Let us go to the house of the Lord."

I don't believe there is a living soul that hasn't been asked to do this very thing.

But not everyone is glad when someone says this to them.

Such people have a problem seeing beyond their past and present circumstances.

They can't see the glory of God's grace that has set them free from all the pain and suffering that exists here on earth and into the life that is beyond.

And they cannot let go of their lifestyles that contribute to so much of the pain and suffering in this world.

They haven't felt the joy of the psalmist and those with him, as I pray we all have.

2. Our feet are standing
Within your gates, O Jerusalem,

3. Jerusalem, that is built
As a city that is compact together;

4. To which the tribes go up, even the tribes of the Lord –
An ordinance for Israel –
To give thanks to the name of the Lord.

5. For there thrones were set for judgment,
The thrones of the house of David.

Where were your feet and those of your loved ones standing this past Thanksgiving Day?

Were you standing in a place where you could see the glory of God?

And did you look expectantly toward that light, and have every part of your being filled with love?

Did those with you experience this infilling of God's grace and love?

I pray so! For there is more than enough to go around.

And as we look to Jerusalem in this psalm, we should also see our own home, and our own community, and our own county, and our own state, and our own nation, and other nations.

And we should also see our eternal home.

6. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
"May they prosper who love you.

7. "May peace be within your walls,
And prosperity within your palaces."

Do we pray for the good of others, all others, not that we glorify their sins, but that we pray for their enlightenment, that they too would enter into this glory of God's grace?

It is a fact, that if we are positive in our prayers, and live in God's unconditional love, we indeed will prosper with a peace that surpasses all understanding.

And others will see it.

8. For the sake of my brothers and my friends,
I will now say, "May peace be within you."

9. For the sake of the house of the Lord our God
I will seek your good.

If we are angry and frustrated and fearful, others see that too.

So for their sake, we should pray for their peace, and the peace of their home, and of their church, and of their community.

And for our own sake, we should seek the good of others; for all of us who know the Lord are a temple of God.

The temple itself must also be at peace. This is all part of God's grace and love for us.

This same forward-looking vision came to Isaiah the prophet some 2,700 years ago, and it still holds true for us today.

In your Bibles, please turn with me to Isaiah 2:1-4, and open your heart and your mind's eye to see beyond where we are today.

1. The word which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.

Remember that we are also talking about the land of the Christians today, as well as Israel.

2. Now it will come about that
In the last days,
The mountain of the house of the Lord
Will be established as the chief of the mountains,
And will be raised above the hills;
And all the nations will stream to it.

3. And many peoples will come and say,
"Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
To the house of the God of Jacob;
That He may teach us concerning His ways,
And that we may walk in His paths."
For the law will go forth from Zion,
And the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

The call goes forth to everyone to leave the problems of this world and to enter a better place.

At first this call is only spiritual, but if we respond, then it will be for all eternity.

Here is where the grace of our homecoming is seen.

If you noticed in verse 3, we are called to go up to the house of the God of Jacob, and not to house of the God of Israel.

Remember also that Jacob means “one who is a deceiver,” while Israel represents one who has already wrestled with God in prayer and has been overcome with righteousness.

This call is for the sinner, so it must represent this church, and every other church and synagogue in the world.

So that God may teach us.

God surely can teach us.

But, are we willing to let Him?

God's grace is here waiting for us, if we are willing to receive it.

And when we receive it, the truth of this homecoming will go forth, so that others have the opportunity to make the same decision.

4. And He will judge between the nations,
And will render decisions for many peoples;
And they will hammer their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not lift up sword against nation,
And never again will they learn war.

If nobody had any weapons, it would be difficult to plan for war and much easier to live in peace.

But give one person a weapon of any kind, and the other person will want a better weapon.

And all we end up with is the wrong kind of homecoming.

To truly come home for the holidays, we need to be at peace with ourselves; and this only comes from being at peace with others.

And even more: We need to be at peace with the whole of God's creation, which includes every other human being, and every other animal, and the earth in which we all live.

And as we learn to do this, we will also see our homecoming.

May the grace of God truly be with you, now and forever!

Amen.

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