It had been a difficult year. A year of independence, rebellion and deceit. The relationship between father, mother, and child had been broken. But oh, how they hoped he would come home for Christmas. It would not be the same without him. They had gone to great lengths to invite him, to let him know that he was loved, to let him know that he was forgiven. Mother had left a message on his phone. Father had posted a note upon his door. The message went unreturned, the note seemingly ignored.
On Christmas Day mother made his favorite meal, hoping against hope that he would come home. Father sat in the living room, staring at an unopened gift beneath the tree. It belonged to the son. It had been handpicked for him, bought and paid for in full. It was his, all he had to do was come home… and receive it.
The Apostle Paul writes, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
When Mary gave birth to the baby Jesus she already knew that the child was special. The angel Gabriel had told her that Jesus would be called the Son of the Most High, and that he would inherit the throne of his father David… and with that throne, a kingdom that would have no end. Mary did indeed know that the child Jesus was special, but I dare say, that as she wrapped the boy in swaddling cloth and placed him in a manger, she did not know, nor could she understand, the fullness of God’s gift to her… and to us.
We are rebels. We were created by God in his image, to live in a relationship with him. He is our Father, the provider and giver of all good things. Yet, we rebel… our relationship with him is broken. We strive for independence, though he is the source of life. We look for meaning and purpose in this world, though it cannot be found apart from him. We govern what is right and good by our own conscience, though he has already declared what is right and good in his holy Word.
Yes, indeed, we are rebels, worthy of hell from the moment we are conceived. But God does not give up on us. He does not abandon us to the mess we have made, nor does he take joy in our self-inflicted agony. Instead, he carefully picked out a gift… and when the time was right… he delivered that gift.
As Jesus hung on the cross at Golgotha, he did so as a gift, as the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world. You see, God had declared that sin would be punished… and Jesus took that punishment upon himself (1 Peter 2:24). Mary wept as she saw her son’s lifeless body removed from the cross and wrapped in burial cloth. She wept because she did not understand the gift that had been given to her… the gift that has been given to us. It is the gift of salvation, eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him we are redeemed. In him our broken relationship with God is restored. Mary did not understand that death would not be able to hold Jesus, and because it could not hold him… it will not be able to hold us either. That is the gift!
Will you come home for Christmas?
Our Father has gone to great lengths to invite you, to let you know that you are loved, to let you know that you are forgiven. The gift of salvation, eternal life in Jesus’ name, awaits. It has been bought and paid for in full. It belongs to you. It is yours.
Come home, and receive it.
Rev. Troy Tysdal is Director of Communications and Prayer for the Church of the Lutheran Brethren and serves as editor in chief of Faith & Fellowship magazine.