Home is where you hang your hat.
Home, sweet, home.
Sweet Home Alabama… or Chicago
depending on your climate preferences.
Home is where the heart is.
There’s no place like home.
Home is where they have to let you in.
Home is where the sweatpants are.
Home is where you can say anything you want
because nobody listens to you anyway
which is also why you will often hear pastors say
that they feel at home in the pulpit.
A simple concept that means something different to all of us.
Maybe it’s the house that you grew up in, or the town.
For others home may be the place where your parents live,
or where your family is from.
It really doesn’t matter what image you hold in your mind for home, Little House on the Prairie or
John Cougar Mellencamp’s Pink Houses,
we all long for home.
Most often when I think of home I think of my hometown, Menominee, Michigan way up in the Upper Peninsula.
The place where I grew up.
Where I learned to ride a bike and drive a car.
Where I put on my first football uniform and had my first kiss. Where I found Jesus.
Where I learned to play guitar and sing and started a band.
Where all of the biggest events
of the first half of my life happened.
It’s where I met my wife, where we were married,
and where my oldest daughter was baptized.
More than that it is a multigenerational home for my family.
My dad and grand dad, my mom and her folks,
all grew up there.
Sometimes it feels like its a part of us,
a part that I have not visited in far too long.
For some that pull towards a place is stronger than others.
For my Dad, that town, is everything.
I remember a couple of times during my youth
that my dad was offered bigger jobs
with better money and benefits and he turned them down flat.
Not because he couldn’t do the job
but because it would mean raising his family somewhere else.
To this day it is difficult to get him to leave that town
for more than a couple of hours.
My mom’s sense of home
is connected to our hometown
and in particular to the house she and her sisters grew up in.
My Grandma Nancy, at 85 years old, still lives in that house.
The house where we all got together
for Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve.
The house where I remember meeting Santa for the first time.
It’s a house where history and memories ooze out of the walls.
It’s good to have that sense of being from someplace.
Having that connection, having those memories.
But as I have been thinking of home this week
I cannot help but wonder what “home” is going to mean for my girls.
Michaela has some memories
of the 4 years we lived in Oscoda after she was born.
Braeleigh was born here and has no knowledge of that place.
Neither of them have any connection to my hometown.
And the reality is, at some point,
the phone is going to ring
and the bishop is going to ask Bri and I
and our family to go somewhere else.
Possibly two or three somewhere-elses
before they finish high school and a few more after that.
For them, home may simply come to mean
wherever mom and dad happen to live.
However you define or describe “home”
it’s clear that the idea of home
is a rather fluid concept
and one lacking in a “one size fits all” kind of definition.
It seems as though home has been that fluid concept since creation. In the beginning human beings
made their home in a garden utopia.
A lush and fertile place, pure and unbroken.
A place where it was routine
for God to come and walk amongst the flowers
and trees and people.
After our eviction
we began to wander and many are wandering still, looking for home.
We tried agrarian societies
and we tried building cities
but we were restless and we kept moving
kept spreading out looking for something
that we could not find in the majesty of the mountains
or in crowded streets or in the fruitfulness of the plains.
Human beings looked high and low and could not find home again.
Even when God came in the pillar of cloud and fire
and showed the children of Israel the way to a promised land,
a new home land for the people,
they did not believe that it could be true.
And so they wandered for 40 years, walking in circles.
Walking up high mountains and low valleys.
Seeking that special something
that one only finds when they are at home.
Even when they did enter into the land of promise
happiness eluded them.
They could not figure out how to settle, how to be content,
and so that land of promise,
the land flowing with milk and honey, is a contested land to this day.
Occupations and exiles plagued the land
even until the time of Jesus,
whose parents could not find a room on the eve of his birth.
And as Jesus grew and came into his ministry he still wandered.
He still said things like,
“Birds have nests and foxes have dens
but the son of man has no place to lay his head”.
Home, an easy word to say, sometimes a hard place to find.
Last week our scripture had Isaiah begging God
to tear open the heavens and come down here,
to be with us, to fix what is broken.
Our passage this morning finds God having done just that.
Israel is being restored and there is rejoicing over the reconciliation.
“God, you smiled on your good earth!
You brought good times back to Jacob [Israel]!
You lifted the cloud of guilt from your people,
you put their sins far out of sight…
God’s about to pronounce his people well.”
The Psalmist here does something I find interesting,
it seems like we are being given an address in verses 10-11:
“Love and truth meet in the street,
right living and whole living embrace and kiss!
Truth sprouts green from the ground,
right living pours down from the skies.”
At the intersection of love and truth,
where we see righteousness and peace kiss,
where truth covers the ground, that is home,
where these things meet, where we meet.
And while that is not a street name and number
it is an apt description of the places
that feel most like home to me.
The places where I am loved.
The places where I can hear and speak the truth
without fear because I am loved.
The places where living a righteous and peaceful life feel like a kiss, where truth and faith are so abundant they cover the ground.
Folks, that ain’t just poetry.
That is home, where love and truth and peace meet.
Those meet up for me in a hug from my wife, just because,
and they meet up for me in the laughter of my children
(not always so much with the peace),
they meet up for me when we all join our voices in worship, acknowledging the reality that while
we may not have much in common,
we love and worship the same God,
we intersect truth and love and peace, wherever we meet God.
Now, I can’t believe I am about to do this.
I did it last year as a bit of a joke
and was determined to not visit it again,
but I can’t help it, I think, at least for now,
it is probably going to become part of my Advent and Christmas preaching tradition.
I am, of course, speaking of those super cheesy,
never really about Christmas at all, Hallmark Christmas movies.
Last year we talked about the formula for these movies.
The pretty girl with long hair
and the handsome boy who haven’t seen each other in years
thrust together at Christmas
due to circumstances that have no basis in reality.
The story is always the same
but the names and the color of the girls hair
and the profession of the characters change but that is about it.
(In truth they drive me nuts,
but Bri and Grandma Cathy like them
and I am a “if you can’t beat ‘em join ‘em kind of guy).
But believe it or not, this year,
my Hallmark Christmas movie reference isn’t just for comic fodder. As much as they are not about Christmas at all,
as much as they seem to intone
that women will always choose love over career
if they are swept off their feet during Christmas time,
I think I have seen enough of them to find a few redeeming bits.
One piece that is always present
is a character who has their priorities all mixed up.
They are a workaholic
and are playing Scrooge to their employees Bob Cratchit
or they “lost their Christmas spirit” when a loved one died,
or when a sibling stole their fiancé,
or any other of a dozen reasons
for not going home for the holidays.
Their job is the most important thing –
or their hurt feelings, or their wounded ego.
And throughout the course of the movie that begins to change,
they meet the other person,
the person with oodles of Christmas spirit
who convinces them to take the day off
or to bury the hatchet with their estranged dad,
or help raise the $20,000 needed for the small town
to be able to have their ice sculpting competition.
And before the end they come to learn a truth
a truth that we all need to keep in front of us this time of year
as we are looking to be at home with each other and with God. What you think is the most important thing, probably isn’t.
Yesterday while I was trying to get bulletins printed
and my sermon written
out of the blue Braeleigh wanted to play with me.
She wanted to cuddle,
and to have me play the hokey pokey on my guitar,
and to take silly pictures,
and have tickle fights, all of it, of course,
when I have no time to do it.
When I have to get things finished up and ready for Sunday.
But friends, as much as I love you,
and as much as I love preaching,
I put the laptop away,
and I took the silly pictures and I played the hokey pokey,
and I fought the good tickle fight, and won by the way.
And it meant I was up a little later than I wanted to be,
but as important as my calling is to me so is my family.
The second big lesson of truth
that we get from every Hallmark Christmas movie
is that whatever it is you are seeking most,
whatever your heart’s desire is,
will end up having been right in front of your face the whole time.
I am sorry if you aren’t really tracking
with any of this Hallmark stuff.
Actually, I’m not sorry,
because if you have never seen a Hallmark Christmas movie, you are a lucky, lucky person.
But you’ll just have to trust me on the finer points here.
You can tell within the first few minutes
who the characters are that are going to end up together
at the end of the movie,
because Hallmark Christmas movies
are really more appropriate for Valentine’s Day, but I digress.
The audience knows,
but the characters are usually oblivious
and the girl who brought her good looking male friend
home from college for Christmas
ends up chasing after her old high school boyfriend
for 3/4 of the movie all the while
the college friend is pining for her
and keeping his mouth shut.
Doing all the good and wonderful things
that the old boyfriend, or current fiancé
should be doing but is too big a jerk to realize it.
And in the end,
her eyes are opened
and she sees the truth
and the old flame or the fiancé are kicked to the curb.
The love that they had been seeking
was right in front of them the whole time.
Kind of like when you are struggling to write a sermon
and you keep racking your brain,
reaching into the deepest recesses of your soul,
only to realize that your wife
has been watching Hallmark Christmas movies
for the past two weeks and there is truly something there after all, right in front of your face.
The characters are interchangeable.
The plots are cheesy and predictable.
But the thing is, when you turn on a Hallmark Christmas movie
(man, I’ve said that so many times
I feel like I should start getting an advertising kickback!) –
When you turn on a cheesy holiday romance,
you know what you’re in for.
But for some reason,
my mom and my wife just keep watching them…
and even though they themselves make fun of those movies,
there is still something comforting about seeing a happy ending – about that moment when it all comes together,
when the silly misconceptions are cleared up,
when home is found, when truth and love finally meet.
This time of year, we always come back to a familiar story:
the story of God making a home with us,
the story of love coming to earth
in an unexpected and ordinary place,
the intersection of love and truth in a small town stable
on a cold dark night.
It’s easy to miss it, in truth – when you’re in the story,
it’s easy to miss the cues and give-aways.
And sometimes that happens in our lives;
we miss what matters most.
But that’s what this season is about:
pausing, in the middle of the story,
and looking around,
and being reminded of the truth and the love
that’s right in front of our face.
When we take an honest look at our lives
and begin to fix our mixed up priorities,
when we stop scanning the horizon
for that which will make us whole
and begin to look right in front of us.
It is in those moments of reflection and repentance,
in those moments of focus where we are, where we meet,
we meet each other and we meet our God. We are home.
And it has nothing to do with a building or a geographical location.
It has to do with where we meet.
Home is where we meet.
Where we meet family.
Where we meet each other.
Where we meet God.
May you come home again this Advent season.
May you find the truth and the love
that are right in front of you,
and may you make time to remember
what it is that matters most. Amen? Amen.