You house,
My house.

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD!”

Today, our Psalm response is taken from the first verse of Psalm 122. It speaks of the overwhelming joy, gladness, happiness that comes to us when we enter the house of the Lord. When David heard the people say that they wanted to go up to the Lord’s house, His temple, his heart leapt for joy; We are all going, we are joining as one to meet the Lord.

Do we know how David felt? Are his words part of our experience? I can say that I know. Our Church and this parish are a place of joy for me. I can proclaim, using the words of Psalm 26: O LORD, I love the habitation of thy house, and the place where thy glory dwells. I hope David’s words and this place are joy for you too.

The Psalms mention the Lord’s house at least forty-seven times. Each mention is tied to praise, blessing, and renewal. In 1897, our forbearers sought a place of joy. They wanted to go up to the house of the Lord. When they got there, they wanted to find renewal and gladness. They didn’t. Rather, they found oppression. The vine they believed they were part of had withered; it was no longer grafted unto Christ but onto the political and economic interests of men of power. Psalm 127 instructs us: Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. And so, the men and women of that time determined to rebuild the Lord’s house. They did it, and because they did so, we can all say with Psalm 5: But I through the abundance of thy steadfast love will enter thy house.

Here we are, 121 years later. Today, we celebrate along with the words from Psalm 23: I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever. More than celebrate, we continue to grow in our joy. How and why?

We continue to grow in joy because our Holy Church teaches that the house of the Lord is not just a temple or a building; it is our homes, it is our places. The house of the Lord extends beyond the walls of this parish church and encompasses our families, or neighbors, our communities, and all who seek to enter the house of the Lord. For those who do not know the greatness of this house, we are sent forth and called to make them part of our family. Repeating the words of Psalm 84 we can call to them saying: Blessed are those who dwell in the Lord’s house, ever singing His praise!

We continue to grow in joy because, as Psalm 92 says: We are planted in the house of the LORD. Being planted there means the house of the Lord goes where we go. Through our faithfulness and dedication to the Lord’s house, our homes and our families become bound together in the house of the Lord. Our homes become mini-models of His house. Our homes become places of praise and joy if we invite the Lord into our family life. Being in the house of the Lord, making our homes His house, and joining our families to Him we have the confidence David had and can say with him: Praise the LORD. you that stand in the LORD, in the courts of the house of our God!

Coming
home.

Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, he comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save you. Those whom the LORD has ransomed will return and enter Zion singing, crowned with everlasting joy; they will meet with joy and gladness, sorrow and mourning will flee.

John heard about Jesus as he languished in Herod’s prion. He sent his disciples to see if Jesus was the real thing. We wonder if John’s disciples were a little suspicious? Certainly they did not want to be disappointed. Here is their man, John, sitting in prison. Will this Jesus really fulfill the promise? Will He bring the promised redemption and allow them to walk free? Will this Jesus bring them home?

Isaiah foresaw a time when Israel would be released from captivity, and would undertake yet another journey through the wilderness. Unlike the exodus from Egypt, on this occasion they would not be left wandering for forty years, but would make the journey home in record time, by a route already prepared by the Lord. The returning exiles would relish the sight of their home ahead as they pass Lebanon’s snow-capped hills, and the luxuriant growth on the mountain ridges of the Mediterranean coast.

Isaiah’s prophecy was not only for the immediate future, it wasn’t just about tomorrow’s homecoming, but also foreshadowed the Messiah and the ultimate homecoming that is in Him. Seven hundred years after Isaiah, Jesus would finally free Israel once and for all and would bring them home. His promise delivered an eternal homecoming, a beautiful return that would not be for just a moment, but for all time. His homecoming is the glory of heaven for those who believe.

We all long for homecoming, for the warmth of welcome and peace. We long for the joy of family and friends, the familiar sights, sounds, and smells of those places we once knew. We seek the hugs. We want that place that is so familiar we can walk free in it, unencumbered.

At the start of this third week of Advent, about fourteen days from Christmas, we can rejoice because our homecoming is near. We can re-experience, in that moment at the manger, our welcome home. The journey is not long, the road is paved, and our room is ready. Jesus’ road brings us straight home.

As we live in expectation of our ultimate homecoming in Jesus’ return, let us rejoice. In anticipating our homecoming let us renew our strength and take courage. For all those afflicted, who have waited, who in sadness longed for deliverance: take heart and rejoice, God brings healing. God lifts us up. We are saved. The restoration of sight and hearing is at hand. We will walk with strong legs and steady step. We will return home and enter singing, crowned with everlasting joy. We will come home with joy and gladness; all sorrow banished.