THE BEST OF FELLOWSHIP CHURCH
Home for Christmas
December 24, 2001
I think I have been home almost every Christmas except for my sophomore year in college. I was fortunate enough to play a little basketball at Florida State. Most of the time, I sat the bench. But I did play some. One year, our football team was playing in the Orange Bowl for the national title, and our visionary Athletic Director had enough wherewithal to move our basketball game to Miami Beach. So, our basketball team was in Miami Beach on Christmas day, holed up in this beautiful hotel. You would think that I would really have had a great time, but I was miserable.
My parents, recalling the moment, will say, “Ed, remember the time you were in Miami Beach on Christmas day, when you called us four or five times?” I would say, “Ben, what did you get for Christmas?” “Mom, what did you cook?” I even shed a few tears. I was really homesick.
I have got to ask you a question. Are you at home for Christmas? Are you at home in the true essence of the word? We are going to be talking about it over the next several minutes. Listen up, because I believe the following message can revolutionize your life, and Christmas will never be the same for you.
We indeed have this homing device that is sort of tripped every year at about this time. It causes us to have this no-holds-barred mentality to do anything to get home. We will fly, drive, even walk or jet ski if we have to just to get home for Christmas. Isn’t that amazing? Because on the other holidays, we are not that focused on getting home. But on Christmas this homing device goes off, and we will do anything it takes to get home.
Sadly, though, a lot of people this year will not be home for Christmas. Think about the soldiers—all those men and women on battlefields and battleships who will not be home this Christmas. Due to the 9/11 tragedy, a lot of spouses and children will be missing loved ones. They will be staring at empty chairs. They will be wrapping one less gift, and they will have empty and lonely hearts because someone has been tragically taken from them.
I really believe this tragedy has caused a lot of us to have an even greater desire to be home. Home has become a greater priority in many people’s lives. What is so weird is, when we kind of cruise around the Metroplex and look at different Christmas lights and things like that, we are not thinking about who was home on that first Christmas.
Or maybe now and then, we might look at a nativity scene. I doubt seriously, when we look at a nativity scene, that we have ever thought that no one was at home during that first Christmas. I doubt you have ever thought about that, but no one was at home. The Wise Men were not at home. They had taken this incredible road trip from the Far East. They were following the star which was hovering over the Christ child. The shepherds were not at home. They were pulling an all-nighter, sipping espresso, just kind of chilling out. Mary and Joseph were not at home. They were from Nazareth, and they found themselves in Bethlehem because of a census.
In a real way, Jesus himself was not at home. He left the glory and the splendor of heaven to be born in a manger, an ordinary piece of farm furniture. He lived a sinless life. He died a sacrificial death and he rose again. Throughout his ministry, this homeless person, Jesus, identified with homeless and wandering people like you and like me. He provides a way—a home, so to speak—for all of us.
Home for Christmas. When I say the word “home,” what do you think about? I have been kind of pondering that over the last several days as I prepared for this talk. What does it mean when you say “home?”
When I think of the word “home,” I think about family. I think about my family. A lot of you probably think about your family. Some might be saying, “Well, Ed, I have a hard time thinking about my family, because I grew up in a dysfunctional home.” You know what? Join the club. We all did. All of us are dysfunctional. We came from self-centered sinners, our parents. So, no one is perfect. I like what Winona said. She said, “My family puts the ‘fun’ back in dysfunctional.” I like that a lot.
We think about moms, dads, aunts, uncles, and people of that nature, don’t we? We think about family when we think about home. What else do we think about? Some of us think about a certain location. I think about Step Drive. I think about North Lake Road. Those were two streets on which I grew up.
Maybe you think about your home, and you know how it was laid out. You can remember the sights and the sounds and the smells. I think home has to do with location. I think we would all agree with that.
Maybe home has to do with some of your traditions. Did you have any traditions while you were growing up? Especially around Christmas, traditions come out of the woodwork. What are you? Are you a flashing light family or a non-flashing light family? Are you a Clark Griswald-type family that blankets the lawn and the home with lights? Or are you more conservative, more understated, and you think the minimalist approach is the best? Do you open your gifts on Christmas day like you should, or do you cheat and open them on Christmas Eve? Are you a fake tree family or a real tree family?
One of the traditions that we have around our household is on Christmas morning, my wife, who is a fantastic cook, prepares a country breakfast. I am talking about a gargantuan country breakfast. We don’t have them very much, but we have them every Christmas. One of the things she prepares is my favorite. She prepares, made from scratch, cathead biscuits. These biscuits—you might not know what I am talking about if you are not from the south, baby—but these biscuits are so big, they are bigger than a cat’s head. They are better than Krispy Kreme donuts. I’ve always told Lisa, “Honey, you could start your own company. Call it Lisa’s Cathead Biscuits and we could retire.” They are that good.
Some of us, though, think about something else. Let me go on. Some of us think about security. We think about security, because home for us was a place of security, especially if we grew up in a fairly well-functioning family. You were pretty normal. You had that feeling of being able to let your hair down, that feeling of people accepting you, that feeling of home being an enclave, an area of safety. That’s huge. That’s big. That’s good.
We could talk on and on about what it means to be home and all those images that it conjures up, but I will stop right there. I am going to make a statement right now. This statement might surprise and shock some of you. Some of you right up front might disagree with it, but after I explain it, I think you might agree. I think many people right now who are hearing my voice are home in one sense but not at home in another sense. What I am saying is a lot of people are home but not at home. You are home physically. You have got the address, the location, you know where home is, you maybe are at home emotionally with the tree and the trimmings and the relatives, the feelings and festivities and all that. But you are not at home in the truest sense of the word.
Having said that, some of you are probably saying, “Ed, wait a minute. Are you implying that I am not home? Come on. I am around my family and friends. Even my mother-in-law is in town during this festive time. I am dressed in my holiday finery. You are telling me that I am sitting here in the Christmas service at Fellowship Church and I am not home for Christmas?”
Yes. You are home physically, maybe emotionally, but you are not truly at home in the ultimate sense of the word. Some here have that gnawing sense of incompleteness. Some of you here—you know what I am talking about now—you feel empty. You feel lonely. Something is skewed. Something is slanted. Yes, you are at home. Yes, you should be happy. Yes, you have everything that the world has to offer, but you know something is out of whack. Something is not right. You have that gnawing feeling of incompleteness, emptiness.
There is no doubt about it. My most favorite Christmas ever occurred when I was in the seventh grade. My brothers and I were tearing open gifts, and my mother turned to me and said words I will never forget. In her Mississippi accent, she said, “Ed (she could take the word “Ed” and make it into three syllables), look outside.” I looked outside as she pulled the curtains in the living room, and there it was sitting right there in our front yard, a 14-foot aluminum K-Mart rowboat. I was so thrilled that I began to get teary. I said, “Oh, this is the ultimate gift.”
We lived about a nine-iron away from a 25-acre lake. I love to fish. Having a boat meant I could fish like a real man, or a real woman. I didn’t have to sit on the bank and try to cast and catch the bass. I could find them. I could paddle. I could stalk them and hunt them and catch real big bass. I was fired up. Every single day, I would come home from school, throw my books down, grab my rod and reel, jump in the boat, paddle out, cast out, and catch fish.
One day, though, something tragic happened. I’m talking about the worst thing that could happen in an angler’s life occurred. I was paddling out, and I looked down. The boat was filling with water. I said to myself, “Oh no.” I wondered what was wrong. I looked and saw what was wrong. The drain plug was gone. The boat plug was missing. I paddled back, dumped all the water out and began to search frantically for the boat plug, the drain plug. I looked in the shallows. I looked in the woods. I looked in the bank. I could not find it. It was horrible.
I went home and said, “Mom, I’ve lost the drain plug.” My sweet mom spent weeks trying to find a drain plug. She could not locate one for that 14-foot aluminum, K-Mart rowboat. I was in a heap of trouble. Did that stop me from fishing? Did that stop me from trying to use the boat? Oh, no. I’ll tell you what I did. I took Styrofoam. I took Bubble Gum. I even swiped some Playdoh from my brother and jammed it in that hole. And I would paddle out, fish for about twenty minutes, until the boat would fill up with water. Then I would paddle back, dump the water out, put some more Styrofoam, some more Bubble Gum, some more Playdoh in, paddle back again, fish twenty minutes, the boat would fill up, paddle back, dump the water out.
The Bible says there is a hole in the craft of our lives. We try frantically to put Styrofoam, Bubble Gum, and the Playdoh of the world in this hole to fix it. We try even relationships to fix it. We think the next buzz, the next high, the next fun fix, the next thrillistic activity will do it. Yet, it’s not working.
Many of you who are hearing my voice right now are saying, “Ed, that’s me. I’m trying to fill that hole with all this stuff, cars, clothes, toys, and trinkets. I’m paddling, and my boat is filling up with water. I’m paddling back and dumping the water out and trying something else and then something else and it’s not working.”
Here is what happened to me. After several months, my mother located a drain plug that fit. I ran down to the little lake, put it in the boat, locked it down, and I was able to fish until my heart was content.
We have a hole in our craft in the shape of a cross. Money is not going to work. Success is not going to work. Relationships are not going to work. Only Christ will work. He is the only one who can fill the hole in our hearts shaped like a cross.
I have got to ask you right now, have you invited him in? Have you allowed him to plug up your life, to complete your life, to fill your life, to satisfy your life, have you allowed that? If you don’t, you will be doing a lot of paddling. You will be doing a lot of turning your boat over. You will be doing a lot of fishing in a sinking craft.
“What happens if I allow Christ to infiltrate my life? What happens if I allow him to make himself at home in my life? What happens if I allow him to fill the hole? If I say, ‘Jesus, take control of my life,’ what happens?”
Your Location Changes
It’s a win-win deal. Right up front, your location changes. Isn’t this cool? You have heaven locked down, because the Bible says we will spend eternity in either one of two places. And the moment we bow the knee to Christ, and he plugs up the hole in our lives, we have a new location in heaven forever. Also, check this out, Christ has a new home. He moves into your life.
Here is what the Bible says. Jesus said these words, John 14:23, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”
Here is the cool part about this. It’s your loneliness, it’s my loneliness, it’s your emptiness, it’s my emptiness, it’s your incompleteness, it’s my incompleteness, that God uses to draw us to Christ. We would never move toward Christ. We would never paddle toward Christ. We would never realize there is a hole in our craft unless we experienced these feelings of loneliness, and these feelings of isolation.
Our Family Changes
Isaiah 59 says our iniquities have separated us from God. Our location changes. Here is what else changes. Our family changes. We are family. Romans 8:15 (NASB), “But you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’” Literally, that means we can cry out, “Daddy.” We have a cosmic perfect parent/child relationship with the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.
Why in the world does the Bible say that we are adopted into the family of God? Here is something about adoption that you need to understand. You cannot be adopted until you are born. Once you are born, then you have the option of adoption. Back in Biblical times, parents could kick out a biological child. They could have a child and say, “You know what, I don’t really dig this child.” But—and I love this— parents could not kick out or disown an adopted child. That is why the Holy Spirit of God chose this whole doctrine of adoption so that we could connect with it. In other words, once we bow the knee to Christ, once we are in his family, we can’t get out. We can’t get out of a relationship with him. We can do something to block our fellowship with him, but we cannot get out of the relationship.
That’s pretty awesome. God opened the door of heaven, Christ descended, he became a man, was fully God and fully man, lived a sinless life, died a sacrificial death, and rose again. And he offers us the true essence of coming home. We have a new location. We have a new family.
A New Security
We also have a new security. Our security changes. Hebrews 13:5, “For he himself has said I will never leave you nor forsake you.” We don’t serve some detached deity. We serve a sympathetic Savior.
Have you ever said to yourself, “I am so lonely. I am so empty. There is no way you can identify with me. There is no way that you can understand what I am going through.” We have all said that before. There is, though, someone who can identify. His name is Jesus. You talk about feeling empty and feeling lonely? Think about the people who scorned him. Think about the people who ripped him apart. He was crucified on a Roman cross for a crime that he did not commit. When he was hanging there paying for your sins and mine, his heavenly father turned his back on him because God couldn’t even wink or look at sin.
Maybe you say, “Ed, I am tempted, and no one feels this powerful pull of temptation like I do. I mean, I am really tempted and there is no way I can resist.” Who are you trying to kid? Get that weak stuff out. Jesus can identify. The Bible says he was tempted, yet he remained sinless. He was tempted to a greater degree than we will ever be tempted. He promises us that he will never put us in a situation that we cannot by his grace get out of, and I am talking about temptation.
Here is another verse that I love, Revelation 3:20. This says it in a nutshell here. Jesus said, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.” Think about this. Opening the door of heaven was a gift that cost God everything. Yet, Jesus, by his grace, offers us everything, this indescribable gift. He is standing there knocking. He is knocking through circumstances, he is knocking through relationships. He has been knocking on the door of your life even through this service.
Let me ask you something. How many of you are going to have some people over to your house during the Christmas holidays, family and friends. Lift your hands. When you hear that doorbell ring or that knock on the door, do you ever look outside and say to yourself, “I just don’t feel like letting them in. Uncle Bill has horrible breath. Aunt Susie talks too loud. I’m just not going there this Christmas.” Have you ever thought that? I have thought that before. What would happen if you were getting ready for bed, you had your pajamas on and your bathrobe, and the doorbell rang, or someone knocked on your door? What would happen if you looked outside and you saw standing on your porch, me? What would you do? On top of that, what if I had a camera crew behind me? What would you do? That scenario became a reality several nights ago. Check this out.
[Video of Ed visiting homes unannounced]
So, the moral is that you never know who is going to be at your doorstep. For many of you, Christ is at your doorstep—the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He is knocking. You control the door.
Some of the homes we went to, we could see them inside, but they just did not open the door. They saw us and they said, “No.” Don’t let that be you. As Christ knocks, don’t look out and say, “No.” Don’t say, “Well, Jesus, before I open the door of my life, I have got to clean house and make sure everything is cool.” Don’t do that. He wants to meet you right where you are. He loves you. You matter to him. He has been seeking you and knocking. He is not going to kick the door in. He is going to wait for you to open the door. When you open the door, you will know what it means to truly be at home.
Isn’t it about time that you prayed a home-for-Christmas prayer? Isn’t it about time that you admitted your wanderings, that you admitted all your paddlings and trying to fill this hole in your life with all the Styrofoam, Playdoh, and bubble gum of the world? Isn’t it about time you said, “Jesus, come into my home and make yourself at home.”
That’s what it means to truly be home for Christmas.