Wherever I go at the moment I hear the song Three Lions by Lightning Seeds and the comedians Frank Skinner and David Baddiel. The subtitle of the song is “It’s coming home” and it’s these words in particular that are being repeated so often around us. There’s a reason for this, because for the first time since 1966 the England football team have made it into the final of a major football tournament. This might be the first time they’ve ever taken ‘home’ the European Cup. It’s a historic moment that has captivated the hearts of English men and women up and down the country, perhaps even yourself. But what about these words “It’s coming home”? What do they mean? In the song the words were originally penned to express the joy that in 1996 England were to be hosting their first major football tournament since 1966, and their hopes of winning it. Since then the words have morphed into a general cry of hope for victory, and a much disputed claim that football began in England and so an English victory would be particularly fitting. It’s a powerful picture – a beautiful and highly coveted trophy coming home to England in the hands of our national heroes. If England win there will be undeniable joy flowing through our communities, such is the impact of sports today.
The Bible has its own versions of homecomings, but they play out very differently. The most famous homecoming I can think of is in the parable of the prodigal son. Here, Jesus paints the picture not of a hero returning from victory with a trophy in hand, but of a failure who has ruined his life, squandered his wealth and has hurt his family immensely in the process. The expectation is that there will be no tour bus for this man, no celebration or welcome – perhaps only condemnation, scorn and rejection. How could there be anything else knowing he has caused so much pain? However, the reality is incredible. The sinner is welcomed by a Father who drops everything he is doing, forgets the pain and suffering his son has caused, and embraces him tightly with inexpressible joy. Jesus uses this image as an incredible reminder of how valuable we are to Him and our Father God. When you see the crowds cheer for joy Sunday evening, be reminded that celebrations greater than these happen every time a sinner returns to God (Luke 15:7). If you’re a Christian this morning, heaven threw a party for you, you are loved by God, and you can look forward to another one when you ‘come home’ to God at the end of your days. If you’re not a Christian, well there’s a party waiting for you if you come home to God – why don’t you join?