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Sermon: “Homecoming”

Rev. Glenn G. Grant

Kirkridge Presbyterian Church

Transcription from December 12, 2021

Sermon transcription is automatically generated. Please forgive any grammatical errors.

When I first started planning this morning’s message. The sermon title came to mind because this is a time of year where, well, there's a lot of homecomings, you know, a lot of families get back together again, maybe at the ancestral home or, well, we don't have too many ancestral homes anymore, but gathering at the senior member of the family's home or whoever has the biggest house in the most central location.

And then this week happened. And I don't know how many people were following the news from Kentucky, but in one town in Kentucky, the four downtown churches. All were destroyed in the tornado, all were destroyed.

And think about this time of year when people are coming back into churches for the season of advent and the celebration of Christmas Eve, and suddenly there are no churches there.

And I was looking at the scripture texts. And thinking about the people in that town and knowing that the lectionary texts for today, if they had lectionary preachers, they were going to hear rejoice in the Lord. Always again, I say rejoice do not worry about anything, but in everything with prayer and supplication with Thanksgiving, let your request be made known to God.

And then we turn to the Old Testament lesson from Zephaniah. And we hear the promise that God is in our midst. and on the day of festival, I will remove disaster from you.

And I was thinking about how that must be hitting the people in that town today.

And. Thinking about the theme of joy, where is the joy? When something like that happens, they're still trying to hopefully find survivors in a candle factory. They're hoping that there aren't any more that they're going to find in an Amazon warehouse in Southern Illinois. They're hoping that they're not going to find too many more victims in the homes that were destroyed over a 228-mile path of one of the tornadoes.

Where is the joy? What do you celebrate? How do you hear the words I will remove disaster from you in the face of that kind of disaster?

And yet, and yet this is a day that we're reminded on the church calendar to celebrate the joy. That is the promise of Christ. Now, that's not fleeting happiness. That is a deep seated, overriding joy, a joy, and the promises of God fulfilled.

Starting last night and the reports this morning, you start to see where that joy comes in. The report last night, that on her 40th birthday, a woman who was caught in the rubble of the candle factory was pulled out safely uninjured. The joy of the mayor of the town, finding the flag from city hall that had been just where the flagpole had been blown over and the flag was ripped off of it, finding the flag and handing it to a couple of firemen who proceeded to fold it properly and hand it back to her.

And the plan is already in place to once again, raise that flag after they have come through this, the people that have come together, the joy that they are finding in the ways that the town is pulling together and helping each other out, those that are showing up that no longer have homes. And they're showing up to help as volunteers at the, at the shelter to serve meals to their neighbors.

Where is the joy? You know, Fred Rogers always said, in a case like this, you have to look for the helpers, look for the helpers. And that's where you find that joy. I think, was it Natalie or Zach that when I asked what made them happy? They said helping, helping somebody. Think about that, helping somebody does bring you joy, invariably people that get involved in helping others out frequently find that they have received more than they have given.

They have received more than they've given because they have received the joy of feeling like they've made a difference. Whereas the other person, or the recipients probably received some material goods.

We do the fish families every year. And. If you look at those lists carefully, most of the time, the items that are asked for, aren't what most of us would consider, would bring us great joy on Christmas morning. If we received them, I don’t know about the rest of you, I remember getting socks and underwear for Christmas and being really upset about it because that wasn't on my list.

And yet. Year after year after year, when we get those lists for the fish families, most of the items that are requested are clothing, clothing, and not something fancy, just basic daily type clothing.

And I know. There are some folks in this congregation take great joy in going above and beyond and finding something special for someone on those lists.

You know, it might be that the child asked for, you know, maybe they wanted a piece of costume jewelry. Maybe they wanted a small, you know, I, I know one time when somebody asked for a specific Lego thing and someone in this church picked up that tag and they didn't get just that specific thing, they got the set that, that was a part of. now who got the most joy out of that.

Well, I'm sure that child got a lot of joy out, but I think the one that got the most joy was the one that went and found that knowing that didn't have to,

who gets the most joy out of something, when they go through the line to McDonald's and pay for the meal behind them,

the last one in line. Probably gets the most joy because there's nobody for them to pay for. But the one that starts it, especially if it goes long enough that it makes it on Facebook or Twitter and namelessly, they know that they started it. They get a tremendous joy out of it.

It's in those things where you do something for others that we experience the kind of joy. that I think Christmas is all about, you know, that God didn't have to do for us what God did in the birth of Christ. God didn't have to do that. God didn't have to take the people who were in captivity. That Zephaniah is writing to. God didn't have to promise that he was going to bring them out and restore the fortunes of Israel and Judah. God didn't have to do that, but it was God’s joy to do that, to restore relationships with God’s people.

And as Christians, we are called to do what we can not only to experience and celebrate that joy, but to reach out and share it with others. Now this time of year, I know there's a lot of people out there this way. I mean, I drove through, the old Newsboys collections twice. One-at-one intersection and another intersection and that's fine, old news boys does good stuff.

But you got old Newsboys, you've got fish families. You've got salvation army, bell ringers. You've got Christmas joy offering. And by the way, now we've added Presbyterian disaster assistance for Kentucky, Tennessee, Southern Illinois. So many of those things and you feel kind of overwhelmed with them and yet, and yet there are other ways to serve and to spread the joy of Christ at the same time. We can take that joy lift it up simply in the way we interact with other people around us.

We shop at Aldi a lot, basically, because it's on the way home. Maybe I should say I shop at all the, a lot because it's on the way home. The other day when I was in Aldi, I had a cart with six cups of yogurt in it, three boxes of cereal. I guess we were there both there. And a woman came through and got in line behind us for the cash register with a case of cat food, cat food is heavy in the cans.

She was surprised that we invited her to go out ahead of us. And then she was surprised when we invited her to rest the case on the corner of our cart until it was her turn. Why, why is that surprising that someone would do that? Probably because not enough to do. There are a lot of people around that claim to be Christians, but they don't do the simple acts that can bring others joy.

And this time of year, if we can't do anything else, can we at least do that?

Lois Neely’s son, Brett asked me to repeat something yesterday or to challenge people. He said mom was always about bringing a smile to someone else's face, whether it be a stranger, a family member, or a friend. And he says, can you challenge everybody for the coming week? At least?

To work hard to put a smile on somebody else's face.

That fits so well with God's promise of joy and what we are called to do. Can we on a daily basis work hard to put a smile on somebody else's face. And I can guarantee you that if we do, we are all going to feel a whole lot more joy this season.

I told Debbie this morning that I really hope and pray that, of the other churches in that town in Kentucky. that the other churches that are still standing invite the congregation to those four who lost their buildings, to celebrate the rest of advent and Christmas with them and invite the pastors of those four churches to participate in worship.

So that it is truly a community being together because that is the kind of thing that would bring the joy back into their lives. What are we doing to bring joy into other people's lives? What kind of homecoming are we allowed? What kind of homecoming are we helping create? It's not just coming home to our families.

It's not just for them to be able to come home to What? whatever's left, but it's coming home to the reality of the season. When it's truly about. it's coming home to joy, let us pray

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