There he sat, clothed in a red, fur-trimmed suit, a white cottony beard almost covering his face. A five-year-old girl waited expectantly on his knee while two older brothers stood at his side waiting.
Santa and the children were obviously posing for the camera. The children’s father was a serviceman on duty somewhere in the Middle East and their mother wanted to send him seasonal photos, brightening the children’s Christmas at the same time by this visit.
Suddenly, from behind Santa, a man’s head rose into view. The little girl saw him first and slid from Santa’s knees to be enfolded in a flash by the man’s arms, her arms wrapped tightly around his neck. It was her Daddy. The two boys joined in the unexpected reunion with the same energy.
In that moment, Santa was still there but he receded from our attention. Gifts the children may have planned to ask for were forgotten. Their father’s completely unexpected presence was a gift that would shrink to insignificance all other gifts.
As I pondered this heart-warming scene, I remembered that the celebration of Christmas has many family-renewing features – a visit to grandma’s house, outdoor fun with cousins in the brisk winter air, gifts piled under the Christmas tree, and especially the gift exchange when grandkids’ eyes sparkle with excitement. But for children, it’s always best if in addition to everyone else, a caring father is there.
And Christmas releases its greatest joy when in the midst of all the celebrations, we are clear about what’s behind the event. God the Father is the giver at unspeakable cost. His gift is his priceless Son, the Lord Jesus. The Mighty Spirit of God is the enabler of it all. The triune God is fully involved in the coming of the baby, Jesus.
Watching that serviceman father reveal his unexpected presence to children made me think of the wonder of Christmas. Christ came out of the heart of the Father. When the Father revealed himself in Christ, this mattered more than any other gift could matter.
Here’s a compressed statement of what Christmas, at its core, is really all about. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:16, 17).
Christmas greetings from our house to your house. May God the Father and His gift to each of us, Jesus our Lord, whose conception was enabled by the Holy Spirit be central to all our Christmas celebrations this season!
Photo credit: LadyDragonflyCC (via flickr.com)