Rev'd Philip Heak
Did you ever wonder why the saying “Home Sweet Home” isn’t “House Sweet House” ? I think the answer is quite obvious. The word “home” has a much deeper meaning that is far more intangible.
Like many of you at times I wonder at the fabulous spaces that I see of houses in glossy magazines, and houses redesigned on TV.
One thing strikes me quite often whenever I swoon over fabulous designer spaces. Yes, they’re gorgeous. Yes, they’re mesmerizing. Yes, they make me long for a cleaner, more pulled together design in my own home.
Yet one thing is absent from all of those images, regardless of how perfect they are on the pages of a glossy magazine. Those images, those spaces, and those houses are just not home. A house is just four walls and a roof, but a home is made up of everything else inside.
A house may be decorated from floor to ceiling with the finest furnishings money can buy. But that will never ever make it a home. A home is a sanctuary. Home is comfort. Home is inviting. Home is a refuge from the world. When we don’t have that – life is almost unbearable.
Let me tell you a tale of two houses. These are the best of houses, these are the worst of houses. See if you can tell me which is a home.
One of those houses is straight off the cover of one of those glossy house magazines.
Its floors gleam with fresh wax; its walls are bright with unspotted hues; its drapes, its paint, its furnishings are all color-coordinated, with not one clashing item.
Tasteful accents are here and there, the windows are specially treated with an electron layer that repels dust and haze both inside and out. The lighting is on sensors, so that as the day darkens, selected lights come up, slowly and gradually, keeping a soft glow in the room no matter what is happening outside.
In fact, it little matters what happens outside, for the room is controlled, sealed off.
Across a carpet, on which, mysteriously, no footprints appear, stands a group of people. Their clothing coordinates with the decor of the room.
They are elegantly accessorized, their teeth line up in perfect smiles, and their hair is styled and shaped.
They are speaking with one another, but very carefully. Very cautiously. Cool; calm; and collected. They remind you of the answer to the old question, “How do porcupines hug each other?” “Very carefully.” That’s one house.
The other house is straight off the cover of Antiques Road Show. Its floors, so far as we can see them, could use attention, particularly where the dog’s toenails have scratched. Its walls have on them some small grimy hand-prints, about so high, and its furnishings are a mixed bag of early orange 60s 70s and a bit of the early 80s.
Its drapes sag a little, its paint is cracked here and there, and where the magazines have been piling up, there is a coffee cup, half empty, and a pizza box, half full.
It’s a little dark, as one of the light bulbs is burned out, and the other is hidden by someone’s sweater, pitched over the lamp in a hurry to go answer the phone.
On the other side of this room I see some people talking. It seems very animated. It’s loud; in fact, it’s an argument. They are raising their voices and waving their hands.
One of them has her hands on her hips and is giving it the old foot-stomping effect. And another is shaking his head as vigorously as his old neck will allow.
Sort of tense over there. Heated. Stressful!
Which of these houses is a home? Truly a home? Perhaps neither. I will not ask you which yours is like. I know which one mine is like;
For I know where home is.
Home is where the stresses are brought and are dealt with. Home is not a museum-like perfection; home is where the issues of life get fought out, but they can be resolved, because home is where somebody loves you.
Home is where somebody puts up with you. A house is just a shell, a showplace, a facade; a home, as the poet Robert Frost said, is where, when you go there, they have to take you in. A house is not a home.
God wants to give us a home. God wants to give us what we need to make our houses homes. He want to give us the sweetest of homes.
That’s what God did when He chose to come in Jesus Christ and make His home among us. A house is not a home; God wants more for us than a house. God wants to give us a home.
The Ikea catalogue has a message on the front: “Designed for people, not consumers.” In the photograph, some young people are having a fun, unfussy dinner at a crowded table. There are dishes piled on a cart and a guitar is leaning against the wall.
The Ikea catalogue sits on top of a pile of catalogues with photographs of sterile rooms and furniture that has never been touched. The messier way of life, Ikea suggests, is not just less expensive. It is more human.
God’s agenda is people, making a home for Himself among people. God’s business is making a home in the messiness of our lives.
God’s agenda is lifting up the fallen, binding up the brokenhearted, healing the wounded, forgiving flawed. God will not be impressed with outside appearance; but He will bless us if in the rough and tumble of our lives, we find a need and fill it.
We find a weary heart and comfort it.
We find a hopeless mind and fill it with imagination. We find a lonely life and fill it with love. We find a wandering soul and bring it home. God is always about: building lives. Making homes, not just houses; making people, not monuments.
For, so says John the evangelist, there was a day when God came to His own home, but His own people would not receive Him. There was a day when He came to live where He belonged, but those to whom He came turned Him away. They were too perfect, too Styling living magazine
But to those who trusted Him, to those who knew their houses were not in order, to those who received Him, to them He gave power to become His own.
Men and women, hear all the mystery and all the wonder of eternity in this one majestic sentence:
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.