One of the things most often looked forward to around the holiday season is the opportunity for families to be once more reunited in celebration, fellowship and affection. The sentiment is reflected in songs such as “I’ll be home for Christmas,” and “There’s no place like home for the holidays.” And every year there are probably a dozen or so movies made with exactly that theme.
Those unable to be joined with loved ones during such times are often morose or sorrowful over the lost opportunity, and because it is felt to be so important, it is not unusual for individuals and family to spend much time, effort and money to travel just to have those few days together.
The reason for this is, of course, the fact that we love our families, and even when we are separated by miles, or even years, we still have a longing to be with them, to fill that hole in the heart that is there when they are not.
There is a heavenly home waiting for the children of God, and one wonders sometimes how many Christians have the same yearning to be home with their heavenly father, as they do to be with those loved ones they miss here on earth.
Jesus spoke to this idea in His Sermon on the Mount, in the context of laying up spiritual treasures instead of earthly treasures. Specifically, He said, “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthews 6:20-21; NKJV)
When we think of treasures, even when we read those words of Christ, how often do our minds go to the very physical treasures Christ was warning against, and thinking of heavenly treasures as analogous. But the treasures of heaven are not gold, or gems, or precious objects of art. Rather they are the spiritual blessings that come from having a relationship with God, chief amongst of which is that blessing of being near to God, our heavenly Father.
There’s nothing wrong with having affection for those who are here on earth with us, and a longing to be with them. Paul, in prison, and thinking of Timothy, whom he regarded as a son, wrote of this saying, “As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy.” (2 Timothy 1:4; ESV) Such yearnings are perfectly natural
But the same apostle wrote of his love for Christ similarly. Elsewhen in prison and facing the possibility of death, he reflected on the opportunities afforded by either chance, and said, “I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.” (Philippians 1:23; ESV) Christ was in heaven, and Paul, with a great love for his savior, wanted to make that journey to be home with his Lord, for that was the most desirable thing of all.
Jesus, for His part, wants that same homecoming and reunion. Thus He promised us, “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” (John 14:2-3; ESV)
We put a lot of effort into being with the ones we love, even if just for a few days. But we do it because we love them, and that time together is very precious. It follows, that the amount of time we put into being joined with Christ and our heavenly Father is something of a reflection of how much we actually love them. Do we say, with the wise apostle, “My desire is to depart and be with Christ,” or do we eschew such sentiments and think of heaven as something to be put off as long as possible?
Home is very much where the heart is. If your heart is fixated on an earthly dwelling place, then that will be your home, and your most fervent desire. Only be setting our hearts on those things above can we really be said to have a heavenly home, and only then are we likely to make the effort to ensure that when the opportunity comes, we are prepared for that journey to be with the God who loves us so.
The church of Christ invites you to join us in laying up heavenly treasures. Won’t you join us in study and worship at 234 Chapel Drive, Gallipolis, Ohio.
Jonathan McAnulty is minister of Chapel Hill Church of Christ.