I’m a bundle of contradictions. On the one hand I’m mercy-driven. And on the other, I enjoy watching these justice/revenge-focused movies like Taken. What’s up with that?
Maybe it’s just my brokenness showing, but before you judge me, consider that maybe it’s because I reflect God’s image. Yes, we’re used to thinking about a meek and mild Jesus, but at times he probably looked more like Liam Neeson on a rampage.
Maybe the Gospel would seem more like good news if we understood that God is a father who wants his family back. He is not confused about it – he is mounting rescue operations around the world where his children are chained in dark places.
Let me tell you what it feels like as a father to lose a family member. Karen and I once lost our daughter Estie in a Juarez slum when she was six. We drove out of the slum in six vans thinking she was in one. And when we arrived and discovered she wasn’t with us, I about went crazy.
We raced back to slum. All the while I was thinking: “How could we have been so careless? Where could she have gone? Had she been kidnapped? What should we do?”
Terrible thoughts flashed in my mind’s eye before at last we found her. She had gotten distracted playing with the kitten that she saw. I saw up close that losing a child is a parent’s worst nightmare. I was ready to do anything to get her back.
Last night I got a text – three World Race girls in Honduras hadn’t reported in for 24 hours. I had the same thoughts I’d had when Estie was lost – I went to Defcon 6 in a few seconds. What to do? Were they lost, in danger, or just irresponsible?
Should we call the parents? We decided to do so. If we were their parents we’d want to know.
When we found out they were OK not long afterward, we all felt a wash of relief.
And today, I’m thinking, “This is how God feels all the time.” Yes, he’s all-powerful and could snap his fingers and change everything. But he’s committed himself to working through humans. He urgently wants us to go and find his family. That’s what Jesus’ Great Commission is about.
It feels like David and his men felt when they returned to their encampment at Ziklag, and discovered that “the Amalekites had attacked Ziklag and burned it, and had taken captive their families.” (1 Samuel 30:1-2)
Those of you parents who have lost a small child know something of the sheer horror that David and his 600 men felt. They were crazed with grief and “wept aloud until they had no strength left to weep.”
Sometimes we can reduce Christianity to a “pray the prayer and go to church” religion. It’s so much more.
On Christmas we celebrate Jesus leaving his comfort zone to enter a world of throbbing pain. He did so because he’s a faithful son who served a father who wanted his family back.
We love the Christmas season because of the incarnation. But when you’re born again, it’s Christmas wherever you go. Jesus puts you on like a glove and touches people. It’s the magic of incarnation all over again, the second coming of Christ.
This is not just us singing “Away In a Manger.” This is God on a rescue mission. And we’re his kids – the ones he’s coming for. If you’ve ever felt alone in life, this isn’t just good news, it’s unbelievably fantastic news.
In light of this, I pray that your Christmas is more than just merry. I pray that it is a raucous celebration in anticipation of the greatest family reunion in history.