The title of my Christmas message for this Advent season is framed in the form of a question, “Will You Be Home for Christmas?” It could also just as easily be called “A Tale of Two Sons.” The Christmas song “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” paints warm images in our minds and tugs on our heart strings. The Christmas movies on the Hallmark Channel have one basic theme; someone is either away from home or has decided to go back home for Christmas. Perhaps it’s a lonely solider on foreign soil longing for home or maybe a business person who is holed up in a busy airport praying and hoping their plane will get them home in time.
In Luke chapters 2 and 15 we’re introduced to two sons. Son number one, mentioned in Luke 2, is called the Son of God and in other parts of the New Testament, the Son of Man. His name is Jesus. Son number two mentioned in Luke 15 doesn’t have a name but is referred to as “the prodigal son.” What does the first Son have to do with the other? Both left their father at home, headed for another land and found themselves in a barn, a pig pen. After the pig pen experience both eventually returned home to their loving father.
Son number one, Son of God/Son of Man, left home and was born physically in a pig pen in order to rescue son number two, the prodigal son, from his pig pen so he could be born again spiritually. Someone has said, “All of us are wandering prodigals trying to find our way back home.” This is the core message of Christmas. It’s a loving Father, God our Heavenly Daddy, sending His only begotten Son to earth so that His wandering children, that’s you and me, could find our way back home.
All creatures on this pig pen of a planet are rebellious, broken prodigals who have wandered away from home, and we’re trying to find the courage to leave the pig pen of our sinful and selfish lives to make our way back to our Father’s house. So, the One who said to us, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father,” might also say to this dirty, broken, confused world, “Come home! Come unto Me all you who are prodigals, who are weary and burdened down with guilt and shame. Please let Me help you carry your burdened life that is weighed down with sin and suffering and sickness and sorrow, and I will give you rest.”
From the moment the Angel of the Lord announced the birth of Christ and invited the shepherds to come and see the Newborn King, a chain reaction occurred. First it was the shepherds, then the wise men and then… One of Christ’s first messages after He launched His public ministry was an invitation for all those who were carrying a heavy burden to come to Him to find rest. Although Christ’s invitation was extended to all, not everyone accepted His invitation. The various responses to this invitation throughout the ages can be wrapped around a familiar Christmas carol, “O Come All Ye Faithful.” The chorus of that Christmas hymn says, “O come let us adore Him.” However, not all sing that stanza and instead may have a very different response.
The first stanza could be typified by King Herod who sang, O come let us DESTROY Him. From the moment King Herod heard of the birth of King Jesus, murder was his mission. The Apostle Paul called the King Herods of the world, “the enemies of the gospel.” This is the crowd Jesus prayed for on the cross when He cried out, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” This is the crowd that Christ calls His followers to love and pray for, which is hard to do since they seem to stand for all we oppose. Remember, though, that Saul the Christian killer became Paul the Apostle. Christmas is a time to remember Jesus was born to die for the King Herods of the world, and we’re called to be His hand in reaching out with the good news of the gospel.
The second stanza is sung by people who reflect the response of the rich young ruler referred to in both Matthew 19 and Mark 10. This wealthy business man asked Christ what he needed to do in order to inherit eternal life. Christ named the price. “Sell all you have and give to the poor.” The young man’s response was basically, O come let us IGNORE Him. This is the crowd that has a form of godliness but denies the power of God. They love Christmas but ignore Christ. They have Christmas parties but don’t invite the honored ONE. They see Christmas as a holiday, not a holy day. They are too wrapped up in themselves, and “stuff” is the god they worship. This crowd doesn’t hate Jesus; they just don’t have time for Him because they’re too preoccupied with the things of this world.
The third stanza is sung by the crowd that lives in guilt and shame so they sing, O come let us AVOID Him. This crowd of people is symbolized by Peter, Christ’s disciple. Peter lived embarrassed. He tried to walk on water but sank when he took his eyes off of Jesus. He cussed at the little maiden at Christ’s trial, denying he was one of His disciples. He was so ashamed, following his three denials of Christ, he went out and wept bitterly. Peter was so ashamed of his failure he couldn’t look Jesus in the eye when he met up with Him on the seashore after Christ’s resurrection. His tendency was to want to run from Christ to avoid Him following his shame-filled courtroom experience instead of running to Jesus.
Peter is a picture of many who love Jesus but choose to avoid Him and stay away from church or other Christians because they are painfully aware of their human frailties. So, they run and hide, but Christ continues to call to them and invites them to take their heavy load of guilt and shame and give it to Him.
The last stanza is for the crowd that celebrates Christ and views Christmas as a holy day, not just a holiday. The symbol of this crowd is the wise men and the angels who came and worshiped. They sing loudly, O COME LET US ADORE HIM! Since Jesus is the real reason for the Christmas season they invite Him to be present at His own birthday party. This crowd will sing this stanza in many different languages, in nations that are worlds apart. But, at Christmas they all come together blending their voices to sing, FOR HE ALONE IS WORTHY!
So, what does it mean to come home for Christmas? It means that when each of us invites Jesus to make our heart His home, He accepts our invitation and comes. The fourth stanza in “O Little Town of Bethlehem” says it this way.
O holy Child of Bethlehem
Descend to us, we pray
Cast out our sin and enter in
Be born in us today
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell
O come to us, abide with us
Our Lord Emmanuel
Won’t you come home for Christmas? Someday, and it could be today, Christ will take us to HIS home forever. My prayer for each of you is that you will experience the wonder of Christ and in doing so you will experience a Christmas like no other, basking in the Father’s love for you, His sons and daughters.