Some of our favorite songs of the holiday season focus on the joy of families being reunited during this time of year. One of them speaks from the perspective of one who has been away from his family and promises, “I’ll be home for Christmas.” Another song takes the perspective of family members for whom the holidays will not be the same unless their loved one comes home. This song begs, “Please, come home for Christmas.” While these songs, and others like them, were not written with spiritual implications in mind, there is a sense in which the sentiment expressed in them applies to our walk as Christians.
One of the key features used in scripture to describe the church is the family. Those who are Christians are the family of God. He is the Father, Jesus is our older brother, and we are all sons and daughters of God. Paul spoke of this relationship in Gal. 3:26-29, where he said, “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.”
Jesus also used the family to illustrate how things would be in His kingdom. In particular, the parable of the Prodigal Son demonstrates this. In Lk. 15:11-32 the Lord told about a father and two sons, one of whom selfishly demanded his share of his father’s estate before the father passed away. When he received his inheritance he went to a distant country and wasted it on an ungodly lifestyle. When he came to himself, he returned to his father to ask forgiveness. As he neared his home, he was met by his father, who was watching for him and saw him at a distance. The father, it appears, had longingly watched for his son all the time he was gone. More than anything else, he wanted his son to come home again. When the son appeared on the horizon, his joy was complete and he welcomed him back into the family once again.
The image of the father anxiously scanning the horizon, looking for his wayward son, is an apt description of what takes place each Lord’s Day as we assemble for worship. Whenever we gather for worship, we note that there are some members of the family of God who are not present. Some of them have been away for a long time. Their absence may have begun because of some legitimate reason, such as sickness or some unexpected circumstance, but has become nothing more than a bad habit. Some may feel embarrassed for having been away so long, which makes it all the more difficult to come back, but in the family of God, our greatest desire is to have all of our family members together each and every Lord’s Day.
In the parable of the Prodigal Son, the Lord says the wayward son came to his senses and realized that he was only hurting himself by continuing to live as he was. Once he realized this truth, he was willing to return home to face whatever consequences might occur. What he had not counted on was the loving forgiveness his father showered upon him. Those who have been away from the assembly for a long time must realize that their absence hurts them more than anyone else. They must also understand that their brothers and sisters in Christ want nothing more than to welcome them back into fellowship once again.
The church is the family of God. It is our spiritual home here on earth in anticipation of entering our eternal home in heaven at the end of time. So then, make our joy complete, and please, come home!