The Advent of a Home Coming
by Bishop Chris Giesler
I Corinthians 1:3-9
I grew up in a missionary family. My parents served the Moravian Church in Nicaragua from my birth until I was almost 10. During that time, we lived in 5 different houses, each in different communities. Then, we lived in 3 different parsonages after my father took calls in North Carolina. Needless to say, we did a lot of moving. There were only two constants in all of those moves. The first is that it involved my three sisters, me, and my parents. The six of us always moved together. The second constant was the boxes of Christmas ornaments that made it to each of our moves. The houses changed, the furniture changed, but those decorations stayed the same for most of my growing-up years. The same silver tinsel, the same string of colored lights, the same ornaments that we hung on the tree, the same stockings that were crocheted for us by my great-grandmother, Violet Johnson. That was home for me. The only thing left from that collection is my stocking. My parents gave each of us our own stocking when we left the home to begin our own families. What I wouldn’t give to see those boxes of decorations again. I can still picture most of them. Perhaps you could say that I get a bit homesick for them.
I think we all get a bit homesick at Christmas time — even if we are “home.” We get homesick for our childhood homes. We empty nesters get homesick for what our homes felt like with the excitement of Christmas morning with our children. However, we will not miss putting together the “some assembly required” toys that could keep us up into the wee hours of the morning. We get homesick for homes we never had. We get homesick for the loved ones who shared those homes with us and are now in the heavenly kingdom.
What if instead of finding our fulfillment in establishing an earthly home, a family, a career, a reputation, a standing in the community, or professional expertise, we found that fulfillment is something far more spiritual? What if “coming home” is the indwelling and ingathering of the presence of God? What if “coming home” is to be gift-wrapped in the God of love?
In this week’s gospel text, Jesus assures his disciples that there will be a “welcome home” party. After the hard times, there will come a holiday. What is being described here is the triumphant return in “great power and glory” of the Son of Man, who will usher in a new era, the fullness of the kingdom of God.
You see, Advent is a season that looks in three different directions. This Sunday, we look forward to the second coming of Christ and our future home. Also, during this Advent season, we will look back into history to the first coming of Jesus to his home on earth. And then, most importantly, we will look at our own lives and see if we are ready for the arrival of Christ into our hearts this year. Allowing Jesus to make a home in our hearts.
So today, we have this announcement about the Advent of our future home. In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul tells his readers and us today that part of the reason that Jesus came to the earth is to prepare us for this date. To quote Paul: “Jesus will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Are you ready? You won’t be without looking at the spiritual nature of Christmas. This is a Christmas that has nothing to do with over the river and through the woods, nothing to do with holiday parties, and nothing to do with wrapping paper as much as we love any of that. It has to do with Jesus coming into our hearts.
So, we first welcome Jesus into our hearts and lives, and then Jesus helps us to prepare for the coming “day of the Lord.” If we know Jesus and allow Jesus to guide us through the decisions we need to make, we don’t have to worry about when or where this will happen or whether we will pass the test. In Jesus, we have an advocate, a guide, a savior.
For centuries, people have tried their best to pinpoint when Jesus’ return will happen. Hal Lindsay made lots of money in the 70s and 80s with his grand predictions. All of which he has now revised time and time again. You can go to Raptureready.com for a daily briefing on how current events fall into God’s great plan and how we can best know the time and date.
I don’t understand how folks can misread Jesus’ words for us today and his advice about our future home. 32“But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come.”
This has nothing to do with knowing the exact time; it has everything to do with knowing how to wait. We wait by being awake and engaged in meeting the needs of those around us. Therefore, Advent is not a solitary experience with us focused on our eternal home; it has community and missional impacts. Advent directly impacts our call to care for others. It is a call to make our earthly homes as much like heaven as possible. What do we pray for in the Lord’s prayer? We pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” We are not simply waiting for our own salvation; we are helping others to feel whole so they can also feel God’s presence in their lives. It is hard to do that when you are hungry, thirsty, lacking clothes, and have no shelter. It is hard to know of God’s love when you are the victim of injustice.
The impact of Jesus making his home here on earth reverberates with us even today. They impact the way we should wait for the coming Kingdom of Heaven. By allowing Jesus to take up residence in our hearts, we will let the will of God be known not only in heaven but here on earth, in our day and time.