People away on long business trips. Lonely college students near the holidays. Military personnel deployed on combat duty. Homesick kids at summer camp. Missionaries under arrest in certain places in the Middle East. They all tend to have one thing in common: they want to go home. They long to be in that familiar place where they are known and loved and safe, where they can rest, where they can let down their guard, and where they are most themselves.
As Christians, we know that longing for home too. The Bible tells us that we are pilgrims, sojourners, folks passing through a foreign land representing our King until He calls us Home. Home, with a capital 'H.' Home is not here. Home is where He is. There is where we ultimately belong.
But what does it mean to finally be Home as Christians? Well, it means that either Christ has returned in our lifetime and taken us to Himself, or else we have come to the end of our days, passed through the veil of death, and entered into the nearer presence of our Lord. For many if not all of us, going Home will mean dying. It's a shame that we have become so fearful of death that we think of it as a great loss. Sure, it is a great loss for the loved ones of the dying who will yet remain longer in this life. But it is great gain for the faithful departed. The apostle Paul himself said to be absent the body (to have died) is to be Home with the Lord. He also said that that was better by far than remaining longer in this life.
But we really don't believe that, do we? At least not very much.
Here's the thing. The early church believed that because they had encountered the risen Christ – the one who walked out of the grave and trampled Death to death. The apostles and many in that early church poured out their lives for the sake of others (and they did that day after day after day), living selflessly, sacrificially, so that others might find their way Home. If they suffered much and lost everything, that was okay. As Paul (again) put it (and he suffered much trying to get others Home), all that he once considered gain he now considered rubbish if only he had Jesus. All the trials he knew and all he suffered he thought of as but light and momentary troubles that weren't even worth considering when compared to the surpassing glory that was to be revealed (when they arrived Home) to those in Christ Jesus.
In other words, being Home makes all that had to be endured when away from Home worth it. And Jimminy Cricket – I guess that makes death something of the transport from here to there. So even at the grave we make our song, “Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!”