Being together is reason for thanks

Voices of Religion

Posted: Friday, November 25, 2005

The year was 1958. The season was Christmas. I was a student in the seminary.

Friend-wife, sons 1 and 2 and I drove to Illinois to visit my family. We were going home for the holidays.

When we arrived, other family members already had come and family activities were in full swing.

I was amused to see several of my young nephews watching as their grandpa showed them how to drive the electric train he had set up on the living room floor. Their eagerness to play with the train was temporarily suspended by Grandpa, who had seemingly forgotten them in his own pleasure of being a railroad engineer. They did get their turn, eventually. But that’s what home and family is all about.

“O’ there’s no place like home for the holidays you can’t beat home, sweet home.”

What a way to express something of the special nature of home!

Whether it is Dorothy, in the “The Wizard of Oz,” who wanted to go home to Kansas, or some Irishman, several generations away from the Emerald Isle, who sings: “I’ll take you home again, Kathleen across the ocean ” or Jewish friends, living far from the land of Israel, who think of returning to the land of their forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, home has a special attraction for all of us.

People of faith often sing: “This world is not my home, I’m just a-passin’ through ” or “I’ve got a home in glory land that outshines the sun.”

Why? We have a keen sense that our true home is elsewhere.

Why is home such a special place?

Home is a place of belonging.

We fit there because we are part of the family that lives there — by birth, adoption, marriage or even sometimes simply by virtue of being accepted as part of the family.

Home is a place of acceptance. Even when we may have blown it by some foolish act or unwise decision, we anticipate that the people of home will still own us as part of the family.

Home is a place for relaxing from the rigors of life. Even Hagar the Horrible sees his home as a place where he doesn’t have to keep on plundering.

Dads and moms often look forward to getting home at night, so they can set aside the pressures of the day at work. They can enjoy family with its love and laughter.

Are you away from home this holiday season? Will you share with others in your family of faith in this season’s activities of Thanksgiving and Christmas?

Friend-wife and I have the privilege of going to Washington state during Thanksgiving week this year. Why? We are excited to spend this holiday with some of our family.

“How fun!” is the way daughter 1 would express it.

As widespread as families get today, we recognize that sometimes it’s easier to get the parents to the children than the reverse, but it will be like home, as we enjoy each other’s presence and fellowship.

Are you sharing in the joys of home this season?

This may be the time to renew your relationship with your family, your church and-or your God.

There are more people ready and waiting to welcome you home than you may be aware of.

Home also is the place for new beginnings. When the Prodigal Son returned home, his hope was for a fresh start — even as a hired servant, if need be.

What a thrill it must have been when his father, not only received him back, but restored him to the family circle with joy — and a grand party, Luke 15:22-24.

There is one more matter to consider, however. Going home is more than simply a change in geography.

Absalom, the son of King David, was estranged from his father. When he finally returned home, his father did not receive him with open arms, but chose to ignore him. Now that is not what we would call a happy homecoming. It actually led to further estrangement between father and son.

How different was the father of the Prodigal Son. He wanted his son back.

“When he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran ” to meet him, Luke 15 20.

A passion for restoration of fellowship, for renewal of family relationships, and a revival of close-knit father-son ties motivated this father to be watching the horizon for the first indication of his son’s return.

How like our heavenly Father, who made the way of return to himself open, free and plain.

Jesus put it this way, when he said: “ whoever comes to me I will never drive away,” John 6:37.

Could it be that, if we had more welcoming fathers, there would be more prodigals returning home?

“Come home. Come home. Ye who are weary come home .”

Charles G. Thornton is pastor at-large of Peninsula Grace Brethren Church, 44175 Kalifornsky Beach Road, Soldotna. Sunday worship is at 11 a.m., and Bible classes are at 9:30 a.m.

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