Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Tale of Two Fathers

Has there ever been a father who didn’t swell with pride and hope while embracing sky-high aspirations for the newborn baby he held in his arms? After getting home from the hospital, away from all the excitement and holding that brand-new little baby, sleeping in peace – fathers tend to start looking way out into the future to imagine what is to come:
Maybe they see their son striking the familiar pose of the Heisman trophy as he leads his college football team to the national championship.
Perhaps they see their daughter in a lab coat winning the Nobel Prize for inventing the ultimate cure for cancer.
They may envision their child being the biggest box-office draw in Hollywood, or chairing the Joint Chiefs of Staff, or writing the ‘great American novel’, or walking on Mars, or singing at the Grand Ol’ Opry. They have dreams – big dreams for the little miracle they hold in their hands.

Do you think it would have been any different for Joseph when he first held Jesus in his arms in the stillness and quietness of that Bethlehem night? Even though Joseph knew he wasn’t Jesus’ ‘biological’ father, I’m certain that he had the same feelings of pride in anticipation of what his ‘son’ would become.

Of course, Joseph had an added advantage of having been told by an angel: “[Mary] will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." (Matthew 1:21) And his wife had been told: “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end." Luke 1:32-33

So Joseph had more than just ‘fatherly pride’ to fuel his imagination of what the future would hold for Jesus – he had the angel’s prophecy to bank on. However, Joseph’s anticipation of Jesus “saving his people”, “being great”, being given the “throne”, and “reigning forever”, was probably much different from what actually took place.

As Jesus grew, I’m sure Joseph experienced the same things most fathers go through as the mundane, day-to-day aspects of life tend to crowd out those euphoric dreams and visions of what was going to be. It’s not that fathers ‘lose hope’ or ‘settle for something less’ for their children. Rather, most fathers learn that enjoying those daily experiences and accomplishments pushes those ‘future’ dreams out of focus. They learn to treasure the ‘here and now’ of their children rather than looking to the ‘maybe someday’. And as we participate in our children’s lives, we don’t lower our aim, our goals just morph toward what is most important to them.

Joseph surely cherished the time he had with Jesus as Jesus learned his father’s craft, was perfectly obedient to Mary and him, and assisted with the responsibilities of rearing his brothers and sisters. Joseph didn’t have to look to what he may have wanted or thought Jesus might become – he knew he was truly blessed to have him as his son.

What about Jesus’ ‘other’ Father? What do you think He may have felt as He cradled Jesus in His arms on that first night in that lowly stable?

Well, being eternally omniscient and not constrained by the limits of time as Joseph would have been, the Father would have had no unrealistic hopes or expectations for the life of that Child. While His expectations were impossibly high (the perfect salvation of man), they were certainly not unrealistic since He knew they would be totally fulfilled.

In that very moment the Father saw not only the ‘mundane’ day-to-day events His Son would experience over the next 33 years, He saw the extraordinary - and He knew the significance of each and every one. Yes, Jesus was pre-existent with the Father, but as the Father cradled this Baby, He saw the Baby:
● As an adolescent boy being perfectly obedient and submissive to the earthly parents to whom he was entrusted.
● As a young man with the same struggles as his peers but never violating a single commandment.
● As a missionary choosing to follow the Father’s plan wherever it led.
● As a rabbi teaching, healing, loving.
● As a Jew living the spirit of the Law rather than manipulating the letter of the Law.
● As a preacher offering hope and salvation.
● As a servant being betrayed by friends.
● As a prisoner being spat upon, beaten, mocked, and murdered.
● As a lamb taking on all of the most foul, repugnant, obscene, heinous sins ever committed in all time.
● As a victor defeating death and rising again.
● As a Savior bringing multitudes back to the Father.

The Father saw the ‘tragic’ from the perspective that turned it to the ‘glorious’. He knew what lay ahead and He knew His Son would do all that was necessary. Perfectly. The Father knew the pain, suffering, and separation His Son would endure. Flawlessly.

The Father knew He was truly blessed to have Jesus as His Son.

And He gave Him to us.

And we are blessed beyond imagination to have Him as a Savior.

A child has been born to us; God has given a son to us.
He will be responsible for leading the people.
His name will be Wonderful Counselor, Powerful God,
Father Who Lives Forever, Prince of Peace.
Power and peace will be in his kingdom
and will continue to grow forever.
He will rule as king on David's throne
and over David's kingdom.
He will make it strong by ruling with justice and goodness
from now on and forever.
The LORD All-Powerful will do this
because of his strong love for his people.

Isaiah 9:6-7 (NCV)

Monday, December 7, 2009

Spreading Good News

Who knows for sure, but in my mind I see the following scene unfolding up in heaven a little over 2,000 years ago . . .
As was customary at the start of each day, God was conducting a staff meeting to assign tasks, prioritize goals, and motivate the crew. He began the meeting by announcing that Thaddeus the sheep herder would soon lose his footing on a cliff side near Capernaum – someone was needed to keep him from an ‘untimely demise’. Several volunteered and an assignment was made.
God then asked for a volunteer to go encourage a priest near Jerusalem whose ‘calling’ was feeling more like a ‘job’. Several volunteered and an assignment was made.
Many more tasks were announced and assignments made until God’s tone changed slightly and He leaned forward a bit. God announced that He had “one more assignment.” This statement was not greeted with the fidgeting and stirring normally associated with the ‘last point’ to be made in a meeting. Rather, everyone sensed that something special was coming and the heavens became completely silent in rapt anticipation.
God then said that He needed someone to go to a teenage girl named Mary and tell her that the time had come: The Messiah - the One foretold by the prophets, the One to bring salvation to the earth - would be borne to her.
As you can imagine, the place went wild with wings fluttering, hands shooting into the air, and thousands upon thousands of “Me! Me! Me!,” “Can I do it?,” “Let me!”
Sure, it would have been cool to have been given the task of brandishing one of the flaming swords to guard the entrance to the Garden; it would have been an honor to warn Abraham about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah; and it would have been great to tell Gideon he would become a mighty warrior. But this was to be the best job ever - to give the best news . . . EVER!
God called out, “Gabriel! I want you to do it.” The excitement could not be contained - all of the other angels cheered uncontrollably and congratulated Gabriel on being chosen for such an honored task. Then God told all of the other angels that He wanted them to be a part as well – He wanted them to herald the birth over some fields outside of Bethlehem in just a few months.
The exhilaration, the joy, the expectation – it was extraordinary. The angels just couldn’t wait for their opportunity to be a part of announcing ‘the good news’ – the BEST news.
“The Hope of the World! Salvation of mankind! Reconciliation with God!”

Isn’t that what Christmas is all about?
And haven’t we been given the same awesome opportunity of announcing the Greatest Gift ever to the world? “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone.” (Mark 16:15)
How excited are you about the chance to announce the ‘good news’?
Does it wake you up in the morning? Is it your central focus?
Could there be anything more important?
God came down – Immanuel! The Way was made possible – Hosanna!
The angels did their part. They proclaimed, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” (Luke 2:14)
It’s our turn.
Are you ready to proclaim the BEST NEWS EVER to the world? Are you able to contain yourself? Does the excitement overwhelm you?

It is Christmas – Christ Jesus has come. Go tell it on the mountains!