By Nako Kellum
Many people go home for the holidays. Before the Covid-19 Pandemic, I used to go back to Japan after Christmas to see my father. However, during the pandemic, Japan has made it very difficult for overseas visitors to enter the country, relaxing those requirements only a few months ago. If I were to go home, I would have had to get a visa; I would have had to use a travel agency instead of planning my own trip; I would have had to quarantine myself in a hotel for 10 days, and I could not take any public transportation. It is not easy to go home anyway, because it is so far and expensive, but the pandemic made it almost impossible for me to go home.
For some people, going home is difficult, not because it is too far, or too expensive, but because of their relationships with their family members. There may be some deep wounds between them; there may be family members they cannot get along with, or perhaps they had arguments with someone the last time they went home. It is those relationships that make it hard to go home. In a similar way, it is difficult for us to go “home” to our heavenly Father because of our broken relationship with Him.
Until we go home however, we cannot find true peace and joy. Saint Augustine said it well, when he wrote, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”
The story of the people of Israel shows us how it is without a true home. For example, the people of Israel had to live in Egypt, a foreign country for a long time, not even as residents, but as slaves, until God used Moses to set them free. Even after they left Egypt, they had to wander in wilderness before they entered their God-given home—the Promised Land.
Another example is the Babylonian Exile. The people of Judah were taken into exile to Babylonia and became captives in a foreign land. They had to leave behind their own land, the city of Jerusalem, and a Temple ruined and blackened by fire. That was their home, but now, they were far away from their home and could not go back.
When we are away from our “home”, we are like the Israelites, too. We wander around, looking for a home, where we can find peace or joy or love. Often, we look for the wrong things or the wrong places to satisfy our longings. We get restless, wandering and looking everywhere for that fulfillment only God can give us.
Or we may be “captives,” not to a foreign country, but to our own sins. Just like the people of Israel, we cannot escape on our own, and it strains our relationship with God. We have this strong longing for home, a strong longing to be with the Father, but we do not know how to go back. That is why Jesus came, just as God promised: “Your God will come…he will come to save you (Isaiah 35:4).” Just as God made a way home for the Israelites, so for us, he makes a way home through Christ’s cross and resurrection.
It is impossible for us to go back home through our own strength or our own righteousness. We are sinful. We are not holy like God is holy. Ultimately, it only became possible for us to go home through Jesus—God, now in flesh appearing. He died for us by bearing our sins. He was the perfect sacrifice without any blemish, once and for all. That is why Christmas is a miracle. What seemed impossible, God made possible in Jesus. He made Jesus our highway back home.
There are times when we feel we are in a desert. Sometimes, the prevalence of evil in the world, in our lives, and even in the church seems like it will overwhelm us. There are times when we do not feel that God is with us. But our God always makes a highway in a desert. It is a way of redemption, salvation, and renewal through Jesus Christ.
That is why we will not lose hope. God says, “Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; say to those with fearful hearts. Say to those who are of a fearful heart, ‘Be strong, do not fear; your God will come’” (Isaiah 35:3-4). God has promised us that Jesus will ultimately—in the New Jerusalem—bring home to us. Until that day, we keep walking the way of holiness with Jesus, offering ourselves to Him, so He can make us to be more like Him as we participate in the work of building for the Kingdom of God.
The Rev. Nako Kellum is an elder in the Global Methodist Church. She presently serves as a GM Church organizer in Florida.