Home! Hardly a word has such sentimental overtones, especially at this time of the year. Home conjures, in our consciousness, feelings of warmth and welcome, of security, serenity and serendipity, of love, joy and peace. Home means mother and dad. It spells fun and games, so much good food and such deep sleep!
Russell Wells has said that “the whole of life is going home.” Solomon the wise said, “Man goeth to his long home,” a journey that begins at birth, not death.
Kathleen and I have just had that rare luxury of having home again the whole of our family. And now that they’re gone again — to the Arctic, to Texas, and, 12 time zones away, to Thailand — we’re still vicariously savoring the sheer euphoria of it all.
Kathleen is from Ireland, and this summer, God willing, I’ll not only sing but “take you home again, Kathleen.” I’m from rural Saskatchewan, so I’m more nostalgic when they resurrect and resonate that golden oldie, “Home, Home on the Range.”
All of us soften to “Home Sweet Home” or “Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home.” Some of you annually fantasize that you’re 21 again when Bing Crosby croons, ‘Til be home for Christmas, if it’s only in my dreams.” If you’re younger, it’s B. J. Thomas’ “Home Where I Belong!” And if you’re a senior, the geritol digests best to “Old Folks at Home” or “When Johnnie Comes Marching Home.”
Home! That’s where most of us 4.842 billion humans were born. Exodus 12 alludes to him that is home born and Jeremiah 2 asks, “Is he home born?” You may have been born in a bungalow in Boston, a bustee in Brazil, or a bunkhouse in Bangladesh. Your mother may have given birth to you in a castle in Cologne, a cabin in Cuba, a cave in Colombia, or a condominium in California.
“I was born there,” exulted the Psalmist. For you, it may have been in a house in Houston, a hovel in Haiti, or a hut in Honduras. Or perhaps it was an igloo in Iceland, a wigwam in Wisconsin, a penthouse in Portland, or a mansion in Manhattan.
Jesus said to His disciples one day, “A woman, when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come.” Why? That a child may be “born into the world.”
A few hours later Jesus Himself would be hanging in terrible travail on the center cross where “surely He hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows … stricken, smitten of God and afflicted … He was wounded for our transgressions (and) bruised for our iniquities.” And what was the result? The Father saw “of the travail of His soul.”
So it was that through Christ’s travail and death, we have birth and life forever more. Paul wrote to the Galatians that through “travail in birth … Christ (is) formed in you.”
Recently I received a letter from Allan Emery, Jr., president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. He disclosed how his Grandfather Emery was born, but at the cost of his mother’s life. Allan Emery himself was born again — as anyone can be — but only at the cost of the life of Jesus Christ on the cross. And so it is that we can sing, “The way of the cross leads home.” That way, you enter by choice. Wrote Robert Southey 200 years ago, “Beware of those who are homeless by choice.”
If you are Christless, you are spiritually homeless. In baseball you’re nowhere that counts until you get home. Spiritually, you’re nowhere until you come home to Christ. The Mother’s Restaurant chain advertises on TV, “Come home to Mother’s!” You can come home to the Bread of Life, Jesus, right now if you’re hungry.
Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “If any … hunger, let him eat at home.” Which leads me to say that home is where, as a child at mother and father’s bountiful table, we received nutrition to grow up. Of King David, Samuel wrote he was nourished at “home (in) his father’s house.” Spiritually, David thanked God in the Psalms 23, “Thou preparest a table before me … my cup runneth over.
“As newborn babes,” urged St. Peter, “desire the sincere milk of the Word, that ye may grow thereby,” for by it you “grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Of His heaven-brand of home meals Jesus insisted, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.”
In the western world today, we don’t have a famine for bread; we do have a famine for hearing the Word of the Lord. Spiritually, it is true that a man is what he eats. Exulted Jeremiah, “Thy words were found and I did eat them, and they were unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart.”
An essential part of our growth at home is learning. “Children,” wrote St. Paul to his spiritual son Timothy, “learn first to shew piety at home (from) their parents, for that is good and acceptable before the Lord.” It is true that when you have a family — as we did — of boys there’ll be both noise and joys; both riling and smiling. If you have girls too, there’ll probably be spouting off, and shouting and pouting. And you’ll have your tear shedders as well as cheer leaders.
There’s no growth without pain, no emergence without emergencies. But as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote, “Stay, stay at home, my heart, and rest, homekeeping hearts are happiest.” Why is this? Because home is where we’re loved. Reflected a homesick Rudyard Kipling ten thousand miles from home, “At home (it is they) tell us how they love us.”
Even when we’re sick they love us. We read in Matthew 8 of a Centurion who came to Jesus to beseech Him to heal his loved one who “lieth at home, sick.” And Jesus did just that — by remote control.
Whether Jesus seems remote or near, actually He’s always in control. And He’s present everywhere. In the household of faith, the family of Christ, whenever we are gathered together, there is Jesus in the midst, even if we’re only two or three.
When you go to your church, do you experience the real presence of Jesus? Bernard of Clairvaux wrote and sang with a few believers 700 years ago, “How sweet the Name of Jesus sounds in a believer’s ear; it soothes his sorrows, heals his wounds, and drives away his fears.” A church is not merely a place of pews and a pulpit, with a preacher and some people. It’s a place where we are a family, at home because the host is Jesus Christ the Lord. And He inspires us to “learn of Him” and “love one another.”
College homecomings are big events. But coming home to Christ is the most celebrated and serious event of a lifetime. Wrote the hymnist, “I’ve wandered far away from God, now I’m coming home … coming home, coming home, never more to roam; open wide thine arms of love; Lord, I’m coming home.”
In Luke 15, Jesus related the greatest and the most moving story ever told, that of the prodigal son. Can you envisage him in the far off country, slumped only half asleep through a long day’s night in a filthy pig sty?
Then one daybreak, rolling over in more of the same — that foul stench and the starvation fumes from a brutal famine, surrounded by the rag-toothed, hungry, husk-hustling hollow-faced hogs — can you hear him groan, “How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger. I will arise and go to my father.” And so he got up, shook off what he could of the clinging filth, and headed home.
As his disheveled silhouette dots the horizon, his father spots him. Hired hands Dad has in surplus, but a homecoming son — that he yearned for, more than the advent of Gabriel. The veteran father springs to his feet and sprints like the rookie he isn’t, to throw those aching, aging arms around that dirty derelict defector. He ushers him home again.
There’s the reconciling kiss, the robe of reception, the ring of reclaim, the shoes to adorn, and the feast on the fatted calf. And there’s the family fellowship celebrating in a style that rural Galilee hadn’t seen in years. The boy who had been sick of home, then homesick, was home again. And so it has always been. In 2 Samuel 14, we read, “Fetch home again (the) banished.” Ruth assures the “Lord hath brought me home again.” In 2 Chronicles 25, “the man of God” implored, “Come home again … and they returned home again.”
When Billy Graham was in Toronto 30 years ago, a prominent Canadian industrialist, Charlie Pitts, was converted. He later said that when Billy was up there preaching the gospel and inviting people forward to give their lives to Christ, he suddenly felt as if he were a boy again, out playing in the yard; and it was like his father calling him in to the house to eat dinner.
The Bible is clear that the “come home” call of Christ is an urgent matter. We read in Proverbs, “Come home at the day appointed;” and in Judges, “Get you early on your way, that thou mayest go home.” Yes, “Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling, calling, O sinner, come home.”
What is the end result of coming home to Christ? Going home, forever to be with the Lord. Our text says, “Man goeth to his long home.” Whether you go through the tunnel of death, or via the bridge of Christ’s coming again, your destination is heaven, and that’s forever home.
Wrote St. Paul to the Corinthians, “Whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord.” But one day well take leave from these bodies of aches and pain, that often hurts so badly; and forever — in immortal bodies — we’ll be at home with Christ.
Billy Graham hosted from 8,000 to 10,000 evangelists from around the world in Amsterdam in July 1986. One who would have loved to have been there, but had to settle for being among that celestial cloud of witnesses that crowded above in the great beyond, is my late German friend Evangelist Wolfgang Dueck.
Jailed at 14, he came out at 25 to cavort with the Beatles in Hamburg’s “sinstrip” known as the Reeperbahn. Miraculously converted, he became, in my humble estimation, Germany’s greatest evangelist. Then one night, in the middle of the night, he was driving home. A truck appeared from nowhere. He hit it broadside and went home instantly — forever to be with the Lord.
When I got word, I cried, but not as others who have no hope. Wolfgang was suddenly absent from the body; home with the Lord. He wasn’t a delegate to Amsterdam! Instead, he’s perhaps singing a lyric I heard often on Sunday night on the radio in my childhood home, “Walking along life’s road one day, I heard a voice so sweetly say, ‘A place up in heaven I am building thee, a beautiful, beautiful home.’ Home sweet home; home sweet home — where I’ll never roam! I see the light of that city so bright, my home sweet home.”
You’re asking right now, “How can I be sure that I’m at home spiritually?” Jesus Christ guaranteed that the person who prayed this prayer went home, justified. You pray after me, “God, be merciful to me a sinner. And receive me home now. For Christ’s sake.”

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