This is my column in today’s Greenville News. Merry Christmas!
Today is the 18th birthday of our my first-born son, Samuel. It’s a shocking thing, to see the transformation. 18 years ago he was new to the world, tiny, needy, vulnerable and awash in the love of his parents. Now he is a man. He is bright, articulate, kind, Godly, physically and intellectually strong and capable. (And still loved.)
He will soon go out into the world with as much as we could give him of ourselves. He bears our genetics and our tendencies, his mother and I. Which means he’s a music loving, book reading, deep-thinking, compassionate and gracious card shark who loves ancient history, languages and has a competitive streak and big dreams. (Among other things, of course.)
He takes with him all that we taught him over the years. And as much as I’d love to shelter him until I leave this world, as much as I’d love to have him in my home and at my side forever, to do so would hold his destiny hostage. He is meant for greater things, even if they involve trouble and risk.
We celebrate another birth this week. We celebrate the birth of the Christ child, the God-man. He bore to earth His Father’s traits as well. He was, in fact, the very embodiment, the very incarnation, of His Father. (A fate my son, fortunately, does not have to endure.)
God sent Him down as the prophets foretold, to save the people from their sins (that means us, by the way). And in order to do it, God equipped Him fully. He lacked nothing necessary to the ministry and the mission in all its wonder, from showing mercy to the poor, miracles to the sick, dominion over nature, kindness to the displaced, hope to the lost and redemption to all.
But as I consider this, today, this day, I realize a little better what God did. He sent His Son. He sent The Son. His beloved. He sent Him into a world, and a life, of beauty mixed with pain, of wonder mixed with terror. He sent Him to a glorious birth, which we celebrate with light and music and gifts. And He sent Him to pain and death in order to defeat sin and death. He sent his dear one to people who would disbelieve Him, disregard Him and finally murder Him.
As my wife and I send our son into His future, it is with trepidation and hope. Will he be loved? Will he be safe? Will he succeed? Will he live long and well? Will he be happy? Will He remember us? I pray that all of those are answered with a yes.
But as we celebrate the nativity, we must remember that God, all knowing, knew the answers for His Son, and sent him anyway. Will He be loved? By some, and hated by many. Will He be safe? No, unequivocally. Danger will stalk and overtake Him. Will He live long and well? No, and yes. His earthly years some 33; his days, ultimately, endless. Will He be happy? At times; and sometimes weep over friends. Will His mission succeed? Absolutely, and for all eternity. Will He remember me? Oh yes. A thousand times yes.
Nevertheless, there was separation, if only for a while. And for this father, and for that Father, even the hint of separation, even a slight lack of communion can be difficult. Love is like that. I hope that Samuel and his mother, his siblings and I are always dear to one another for he is certainly cherished by us.
And from the intimacy with which Jesus speaks of His Father, and with which the Father speaks of Him, it seems certain that their love for one another never ebbed, but only grew stronger.
At Christmas, we talk about the gift of the Christ child. But every good gift costs the giver something. This year, I’ll try to remember what it must have been like for the Almighty to send His Son out, even for a while, for the likes of me.
Because even as we know that they are ready, and that they have great roles to play and great destinies to fulfill, it’s hard. Even if we know that they have work to do, lives to save, souls to rescue and a universe to set right, it’s painful to let go for even a short time. For a Son (or a son) is a treasure of untold worth.