What did you do for your last holiday? Spend time with family? Catch up on much needed sleep? Perhaps you bundled the family into the car and ventured to see some distant relatives or friends. Now the days are growing colder and shorter, and the infamous “term three” rush is fast approaching, you may find yourself longing for respite.

A person who has happy memories of a place, wherever that may be, knows the unique feeling of setting out on a homeward journey. Home is not far off.

This was the case for many Jews in the 6th and 5th centuries BC, and it is a key to understanding a beautiful quote from Isaiah 9:1-2 that is applied to the outset of Jesus’ ministry in Matthew chapter 4
“Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles - the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.”
The country road called “the Way of the Sea” marked a very precious pilgrimage for the Israelites: their return from exile. This was their long-awaited homecoming from the land where they were prisoners, bearing the yoke of Babylon for the hardness and impenitence of their hearts. Now Matthew reveals that something of immense magnitude is about to happen: a new homecoming – a transition – a restoration - from life in darkness and the shadow of death into a great light.

Perhaps you’ve been up before dawn, stumbling around in the gloom, it’s always coldest before sunrise. A shiver runs up your spine, as you look eastward, longing for that golden silver of fresh morning light.

Just like the Israelites, we are called to recognise ourselves in this unfolding drama. God has us on the move: out of the helpless death of exile towards the rising of an eternal day. We’re on the Way of the Sea. We’re heading home to where we belong, and yet it’s not to a place, but to a Person. The radiance of the Son appears with His proclamation:
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”
Matthew 4:17
This is the blazing Gospel call, a summons out of the exile of sin and into new life with Christ. The kingdom of heaven is near, which is like an invading army of judgment to those who oppose it, but for those who believe, Home has come to us.