This is the time for holiday trips! Tens of thousands of people are planning and making trips home for the Christmas and New Year holidays. I heard a report on the news about a possible strike of airline workers in Great Briton. People who were desperate to get back to the United States to be with their families for Christmas were paying upwards to $2000 for a one way ticket.
I believe that I know one of the things that makes Christmas so special to most people. It's the fact that as at no other time we as a society realize how important family really is. People just like you, will drive, fly, take trains and bus thousands of miles, just to be with family. Why do we do that? Isn't it because we love our family? Isn't it because we want to keep that love alive, strengthen bonds, and spend time with people who are important to us? Yes, it is!
Would you like to know is really confusing for me? It's the fact that we as part of God's church are part of a family that can be found anywhere we are on earth, yet we don't appreciate it. God's church is described as "the family of God," "brothers and sisters in Christ," "Children of God". We will travel thousands of miles to be with our physical family, but far too often we won't travel a few blocks (or miles), to be with our spiritual family.
I can think of several reasons this happens. First, it is because we don't like the people in the church and don't want to be around them, or perhaps it is not a warm and friendly group and we don't feel comfortable with them, or could it be that we forget that the main reason we gather with the church is to be in the presence of God? Maybe we have out priorities wrong and stay home because we want to be with others or be involved in other activities than we find with God's church.
Let me tell you why this is confusing to me. You see, you can talk to almost anyone that calls themselves "Christian" and ask them if they want to go to heaven and the answer will be "Yes." I wonder why they would want to go to heaven and be with God and the Saints, when they don't want to do it (or feel comfortable doing it) here on earth. Some folks will even say, "I love God, I just have a problem with THOSE PEOPLE who call themselves Christians, because I don't think they act like it." A scripture comes to mind that deals with this problem. In 1 John 4:20c, John writes, "if we don't love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see?" NLT)
I will grant you that I have been in churches where they have not been warm or welcoming, maybe like some part of your family may occasionally feel to you. I have been in some churches, where I feel like a total outsider who wandered in the wrong door by mistake. The problem is that even if I feel that way, it doesn't excuse me from meeting with the church to bask in the presence of God. And I've learned through the years that just perhaps the person who needs to change is me! I just like you, tend to put up walls and expect things of others that I forget to expect of myself. It's easy to say, "They didn't even speak to me," but who did you go out of your way to speak to?
Going home for the holidays, yes, it's exciting and we anticipate a great outpouring of love. We find comfort with those we hold close in our hearts. Let me encourage you that if you don't feel like part of a family in your church, to be the one who decides it's time to change that situation. You see, God says it is part of the job of every Christian. One of my favorite passages in Hebrews 3:12-14 where we are told: "Be careful then, dear brothers and sisters. Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God. You must warn each other every day, while it is still "today," so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God. For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ."
So the bottom line is this: Take a close look at your own life and make sure of your own heart, then make a real effort to encourage others so that you can all be family! Make it a priority to encourage others to live faithfully, trusting God as we "share in all that belongs to Christ."