For many of us, our literal homecomings can be wonderful. But for others, they are fraught with difficulty and pain… When we gather with our families for the holidays, we sometimes realize how much we aren’t really “at home,” how much we ache for an acceptance we’ll never know with our natural relatives, how desperately we yearn for a real home in which we can feel fully at peace. This yearning can point us to our heart’s true home.
For many of us, being at home for the holidays is one of life’s greatest joys. But not for all of us. Many people experience holiday homecoming with considerable ambivalence. Yes, it can feel good to be back on familiar turf and to spend time with relatives and old friends. But some of these relationships may still be tainted with pain… How can we find God’s grace when coming home is hard?
There will be a time when God will make his home among us, and we will be fully at home with him in the new creation. For Christians who pay attention to the liturgical year (or church year or Christian year), we have just entered the season of Advent. In this season, we remember when God came in Jesus to make his home with us, and we look forward to the future homecoming of God.
Our passage from Isaiah 60 reminds us that we are to reflect God’s glory into the dark world around us. As we communicate God’s truth, as we reach out with his love, as we offer forgiveness and mercy, as we live and speak and work differently, people will see God’s glory through us and be drawn to him. That is an essential element of our high calling as Christians.
If we want God’s words to guide the lives of the next generations, including our own children and grandchildren, then we need to commit ourselves to this goal. It will impact how we live each day and how we function together as the church. It will require new authenticity, openness, and integrity. We have no more important calling than to pass on our faith to the next generations.
As I reflect on Isaiah 59:14, I’m struck by the phrase, “Truth has stumbled in the streets.” A more literal translation might read: “Truth totters in the square.” According to Isaiah, honesty was disappearing from the gathering places in towns and cities. This criticism applied to public officials as well as to everyday citizens. Deceit ruled the day. Sound familiar?
It’s easy for Christians to think of the Sabbath as a legalistic burden that the Jews are required to carry. Yet this is not how the Lord speaks of the day of rest. In Isaiah 58 he tells his people to “call the Sabbath a delight,” not a burden (58:13). Those who honor the Sabbath will also delight in the Lord, who promises the blessings of honor and an inheritance.
As God’s people through Jesus Christ, we cannot ignore the reality of hunger in our world. Nor can we sit by while millions starve. Simple compassion, not to mention Christ-like love, calls us to act.
In the time of Isaiah, God promised that if his people would feed the hungry and help those in trouble, then “[their] light will rise in the darkness, and [their] night will become like the noonday” (58:10).
I admit it’s a bit ironic to talk about fasting the day before Thanksgiving Day in the United States. But our slow devotional walk through Isaiah brings us to chapter 58, a chapter that has much to say about fasting… and much to say that is as surprising to us as it is challenging.
When I back away from God, I lose touch with his peace. Yet God, in his mercy, doesn’t leave me in my restlessness. He finds ways to remind me of his presence. When I turn to him in desperation, he meets me… sometimes in that very moment, sometimes later. I realize that my life is never what it ought to be except when I rely fully on the Lord.