(This was a reflection Tara shared with the staff before Christmas. The message was so good, I wanted to share it with you regardless of the past-tense-ness of it. AND, sharing it now gives me the opportunity to be a liturgical nerd and point out that it is still Christmas!)
I have been struck with some pretty significant sadness lately thinking about the reality that some children who know about or believe in Santa will wake up on Christmas morning with nothing. If you really let yourself visualize that, it’s likely to tear you up. Whether it’s drug-addicted parents who are strung out and might still be asleep, or parents who couldn’t afford anything and couldn’t get connected to donated gifts, the reality is that children will go to bed with anticipation and hope and wake up (on what should be the most hopeful morning) with crushing devastation.
For the Christian, this would be sad but bearable. Even a child can accept disappointment knowing they have a savior who knows them, loves them, and will one day wipe away every tear. But for the child who does not know Jesus, it’s crushing. More gut wrenching than the absence of toys is the heartbreak of their thoughts:
The gift giver didn’t come to me.
The gift giver forgot about me.
The gift giver doesn’t know me.
The gift giver was too busy for me.
Or as the song says, “You better not pout, you better not cry, you better not shout. He’s making a list, he’s checking it twice. He’s going to find out who’s naughty and nice.” So what are they to think except: I wasn’t good enough.
The tragedy that these feelings and misconceptions will be felt on the very morning many of us are rejoicing with full hearts remembering and celebrating our savior coming into the world cuts me to my core.
While I know there are unimaginable atrocities happening in the world that are more devastating than waking up on Christmas with no gifts from Santa, I don’t think I’m necessarily supposed to dismiss this reality to focus more on the worse things. So I’ve sat with this for several days now.
During one of the moments this week as I was thinking about it, I was encouraged in thinking about the actual words that Jesus spoke in Luke 15 about the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son. Usually I am drawn more into the lost sheep or the prodigal son parable, but this time the truths in the lost coin parable encouraged me more than the other two.
These parables illustrate the worth and importance of single souls. It was one sheep, one coin, one son. I find it incredibly comforting that Jesus himself spoke these words. There is no question that the savior, redeemer, and healer cares about the individual children who do not know him yet.
I think it’s fair to say the lost belong to God whether they know it or not. The shepherd told his friends he found “his” sheep. The father rejoices and says “his son” is alive and found. The coin was lost but still claimed by the woman. There was a time she was separated from the coin, but it was always hers. We can remind ourselves that everything in creation belongs to the creator, including those that do not know him yet. These children for whom I’m heartbroken are unknown to me. I don’t know where they live, what their names are, their ages, but God – all knowing and ever present – does, and though they may be separated from him for a time, I trust that he will one day pick them up like the coin, keep them near, and rejoice.
Another detail that struck me about this parable was the fact that coins do nothing in this lost-and-found dynamic. In the lost sheep, the sheep are likely relieved when they see their shepherd, and the prodigal son actually runs home to the father, but the coins just lay there, lifeless, blending in, and easily overlooked. They do absolutely nothing to be found; the woman does all of the action, and she’s the one who rejoices. What a good reminder that it is by God’s gracious pursuit that anyone is found.
So for these children who are bound to be crushed on Christmas morning, whether it’s one child or one million, I trust that through his Holy Spirit, God will, at the right time and according to his will, place the right witnesses in their lives or reveal himself to them in a supernatural way, and that their eyes, ears, and hearts will receive and believe the good news that…
Jesus, the true gift giver – did in fact come to them.
Jesus, the true gift giver – does know and love them.
Jesus, the true gift giver – has not forgotten them.
And they actually are not good enough to receive anything from the ultimate gift giver but still are freely offered forgiveness and everlasting life, which we all know far exceeds any present from the once-a-year-Santa who gives according to deeds and performance.
Thanks be to God for Jesus not only teaching us about lost coins – but finding them too.