Several years ago, my parents decided to retire as pastors and return to South Korea to take care of their elderly parents. A couple of years later, they decided to sell their house in Bellevue, Washington, and stay in Korea permanently.
When I was first told that they had sold the house, I was very sad. I no longer have a “home” to return to. I was so upset that I decided I was going to do my best to make the new house in Korea feel like “home.” Hence, before I visited Korea a few years ago, I made sure that I could familiarize myself with my new home. I asked my parents to send me pictures of their new home. And, I made sure that we would do our family traditions we had adopted when we moved to the United States—things that would look odd in Korean culture—to make sure that it feels like home.
But do you know what happened? As soon as I landed in Korea and saw the faces of my parents, I felt like I was home. Even better, I felt the warmth of “home” as soon as I saw a framed scripture verse that I grew up with— “Jesus yesterday, today, and forever”—which was my dad’s motto. The rest—the unfamiliar house and neighbors—was not a big deal for me.
In a surprising way, I felt like I was home when I joined the Thanksgiving dinner here at church. It was my first time being part of Thanksgiving dinner here, and yet I felt “at home.”
I wondered if it was the turkey. Could be. Maybe it was the love that was prepared by Chuck and many volunteers. True. But mostly, I think it was the familiarity—with the faces of God’s people and with Jesus Christ, the main reason for thanksgiving.
And, I have a feeling it’s going to be a comforting Christmas season here, even though I might not be familiar with all the traditions of Castro Valley United Methodist Church. I know the face of Jesus Christ, the main reason for the season. Perhaps that’s what our “home” should look like, a focus on Jesus Christ, so that everyone—whether they’ve been here for a long time or it’s their first time—feels like they’re at home. With that in mind, we should invite our friends who are looking for a “home.”
In this time of Advent and Christmas, we will be embracing the seasonal metaphor of homecoming to explore biblical stories and texts prepared for this season. Each week’s Sunday service will invite us to feel that this church is more like the home Jesus Christ has prepared for us. And, by focusing on Jesus Christ, we will be experiencing coming home whether we’ve been here 30 years, 10 years, or have just joined the church.
The following is an overview of the Advent through Christmas season services.
First week of Advent—Come Down Home (Isaiah 64:1–9)
I invite you to prepare your heart to long for Christ’s return.
Second week of Advent—Home Is Where We Meet (Psalm 85:1–2, 8–13)
I invite you to explore intersections (loving-kindness and faithfulness, righteousness and peace).
Third week of Advent—Joy Is Our True Home (1 Thessalonians 5:16–24)
I invite you to rejoice in God’s homecoming.
Fourth week of Advent and Christmas Eve—God Makes This World a Home (several services)
I invite you to turn with courage because Christ makes this world God’s home.
After Christmas, Epiphany—Going Home Again (Luke 2:22-40)
I invite you to choose what will motivate you in the year to come.
Rev. Dr. Shijung Shim