The nights may be dark and long and the weather wintery but the journeying home for Christmas is usually fully of eager excitement and thousands of memories. It may be old, but the song ‘Driving home for Christmas’ still plays out each December!
Millions of miles in the air, on rail-tracks, and roads are travelled with the one aim of being with those we love on Christmas Day. We feel for those who are away from home at Christmas. It is hard to explain the strength of feeling homesick. It is as real as any illness, and yet there is nothing physically wrong. That deep down longing for home can be overwhelming when one is far from family, friends, and the familiar. Sadly, many won’t be able to make it to their loved ones this year.
But that’s what the first Christmas was all about. A tiny baby born far from home, and not even in a home but laid in a manger. This new child had made the longest journey to come to a place as different from his home as anywhere could be.
Heaven has always been the ‘home’ of God. There is nothing dark or dismal about heaven. There is no police force in heaven, for there is no crime or sin there. There are no doctors or nurses, for there is no sickness there. Heaven needs no undertakers or grave diggers, for there is no death. Comedians would be redundant because heaven is full of joy and pure delight. It is a place where God’s presence brightly illuminates everything. It was from there that Jesus came to a world of injustice, unfairness, cynicism, and sin. He left his home to come to a people who have turned from him. And he came because he loves us so much.
Though born in Bethlehem, that was not his home. Egypt was the place he lived in infancy as a refugee child, but that could never be his home. Nor Nazareth, where he grew up. The prophets of old had said the Saviour would be from these places, but he was not at home in these places. After all, a house is not a home.
God came into the world he had created with an invitation for us to enter his heavenly home. More than that, Jesus had left the place of honour and splendour to deal with all that would prevent us ever entering heaven. Jesus could not have been further from his Father God when he eventually suffered on a cross and carried the sin of the world on himself. The prophets had said that he would die in our place, paying the penalty of all our wrong. He who was placed in a wooden crib eventually was laid on a wooden cross. All that would keep us from enjoying heaven, Jesus dealt with on the cross. Everything wrong about us: thoughts, words, and actions that should never have been were laid on Jesus as he bore our sins in his own body on the cross.
Jesus was buried in a borrowed tomb that was sealed and guarded. But that was not his home. Three days later, he rose from the dead, showing himself alive to hundreds of people. Death could not hold Jesus. Before returning to his true home, he commissioned his followers saying that what he had done should be freely offered to all people whatever their colour or gender, whatever their religion or background.
Here is an invitation to you to be ‘Home’ for Christmas, and Home for all eternity. The Bible says, ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.’ We are not loved because we are worth it but because that is just how God is. He wants us to share his heavenly home forever. By turning from your own way and asking Jesus to forgive you and become your Lord and Saviour you can come to know God.
On Christmas Eve 2012 Alan Greaves was walking to his parish Church in Sheffield where he was to play the organ for the late-night service. He was brutally attacked by two young men. He did not survive. He never made it back to his Sheffield home. Instead, he was ‘Home’ with God. His widow, Maureen, is sure he is in heaven, not because he was good, but because he had trusted Jesus to be his Lord and Saviour. Heaven is not a reward, but a gift which Jesus purchased on the cross and offers to all who will receive him.
Whether you are frustrated that you can’t be home or simply longing for home, there is a place where you can find a warm welcome. ‘Home’ can be knowing ‘Christ in you’ and you ‘in him’ for time and eternity.
Will you, today, respond to God’s RSVP and say ‘Yes’ to his invitation? If you will, then be assured by Jesus’s words, ‘In my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you…’
Roger Carswell is a travelling evangelist and author.