1:1-4 In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia, in order that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be accomplished, the Lord stirred up the spirit of King Cyrus of Persia so that he sent a herald throughout all his kingdom, and also in a written edict declared: “Thus says King Cyrus of Persia: The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem in Judah. Any of those among you who are of his people—may their God be with them!—are now permitted to go up to Jerusalem in Judah, and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel—he is the God who is in Jerusalem; and let all survivors, in whatever place they reside, be assisted by the people of their place with silver and gold, with goods and with animals, besides freewill offerings for the house of God in Jerusalem.” (NRSV)
Going home. It’s what many of us do this time of year. How does the song put it—“Over the river and through the woods, to Grandmother’s house we go.” For some going home is a time of great joy and comfort; for others it can be a painful time of relived hurts of years past.
The Hebrews living in exile in Babylon were mostly the generation born after the exile began, though there might have been some who remembered the old days, before the temple was destroyed. This new leader from Persia had crushed the Babylonians and was now setting the exiles free and promising to build them a new temple….a new place for the spirit of God to dwell in the way their tradition described it. They were excited to go home, but what would be there when they arrived? There was anticipation and fear, but a place to experience God once again in Jerusalem was their great joy.
We, too, are celebrating a new dwelling place for God…in the person of this little child who is coming, who will be the Christ who will in his teachings, his actions, his death and his resurrection change everything we understood about power, sacrifice and death.
God of home, we thank you for your presence among your people throughout the ages and the ways you have brought your people home, generation after generation. Make within us an abode for the indwelling of your Spirit this season, a core of grace and joy that we can turn to when we experience anticipation or fear. Make us a home, a place of welcome and love, for all we encounter this season and every day. Amen.
Pastor Michael Kirby