This second Sunday of Advent, we are reminded that going home is never as easy as it sounds. We are often afraid to go home, afraid of home. Maybe we’ve experienced pain there; maybe we have felt unfairly judged, neglected, or unloved. Despite our desire to have home be positive for everyone, there are many who would be afraid of going home. So, as we worship, we can acknowledge that hesitancy. We can confess the times when we have not provided the sense of home that we wanted to, that we haven’t been as hospitable as we could be. We can offer invitations to reconciliation, even in the most complicated of relationships. The call to come home means overcoming our fears that it won’t work the way we hope, and it means committing to be an example of the kin-dom in our life together.
For many, the second Sunday of Advent is when we light the candle of peace. This is a time of coming together, of building a community of faith that is open to all. This is why we see Christmas movies telling a story of restoration, of broken relationships that are healed. Maybe there is a drama troupe in the church who can tell a story of reconciliation; maybe there could be a liturgical dance depicting a healing, a gathering up. Perhaps we need to provide prayer stations where families or individuals can come and light a candle for someone estranged, an invitation to return, despite their fears, into the loving embrace of a repentant family.
Let’s also be aware that when we speak of family, it is not just the individual families that we want to be working on their sense of home. We are also talking about the whole community, the church, and the surrounding neighborhoods. There is division; there is unwelcome. Who is being left out? Who is not being welcomed, whether intentionally or not? Who is not here, and what would it take for them to feel welcomed, included, invited?
Prayers of confession can be opportunities to open doors that have been closed too long. Anointing can be a commissioning to the task of reconciliation. John the Baptist’s call isn’t just a personal call to live a better life; it is an invitation to the whole community to be a sign of the kin-dom. Maybe we could send the congregation out with a mission to invite their neighbors, invite the community to join them for a special event this season, Christmas eve, or a children’s pageant or a cantata. What special events are we doing for the wider community and not just for ourselves this Advent season? The truth is, some of your neighbors might just be too afraid to come unless you invite and promise to be with them throughout the whole event. Make a promise to meet them, introduce them, escort them through the evening. The fear of home is real.
Rev. Dr. Derek Weber, Director of Preaching Ministries, served churches in Indiana and Arkansas and the British Methodist Church. His PhD is from University of Edinburgh in preaching and media. He has taught preaching in seminary and conference settings for more than 20 years.