Well, the twelve days of the Christmas are not yet over and the big games have already been completed, and the first toys have been broken. Ethan was playing with one of those toys, a little more vigorously than he should have, and it crashed into the floor. The little man inside would no longer move. Rattle the object and it rattles back.
“Mommy, it’s not working” said with missing first consonants “ommy, it ot orkin”.
“Save it for when Daddy gets home.” “ok.” The clock rolls forward to those early dark winter nights.
“Daddy, it not working” (addy, it ot orkin).
“Well Ethan, it’s broke, it’s not going to work again”…3…2…1…meltdown.
There is an easy, probably too easy, analogy in that story to the world as it is. Sin breaks things. We don’t like broken things and we really don’t like people telling us they are broken. You might say that the United States is collectively having a meltdown after being told a lot of stuff is broken. But that is not actually the Christian story, or it is only half of it.
Yes, lots of things are broken. That is actually the purpose of the law, to tell us what things aren’t working as they were originally designed. At a very base level you have “The gods of the copybook headings”. We may really want to think we are able to manipulate and change and decree some things to be ok, we may be rich enough to support a distortion field for a while, but natural law always reasserts itself. The sins of the fathers are paid by the children to third and fourth generation. And that leads to finer level, the revealed law. The “you shall not’s” of the 10 commandments, or Jesus’ positive summation of them: Love the Lord your God with everything you have, and love your neighbor as yourself. They are a mirror to recognize just how broken we are.
But the Christian story is not just about Daddy telling son, it’s broken, live with it. The best that I as a human father was able to do was hug Ethan for a bit, and say “let’s see what it still does”. The little man didn’t move anymore, the rattle was still heard, but the toy was still fundamentally good. That’s not always the case. Sometimes all you can do is hug. But God’s creation is a little more robust, and his power is a little greater. If you human father’s know how to give good gifts, how much more your father in heaven?
God’s creation is deeply and fundamentally good. So good in fact that God took on flesh and dwelled among us. There is nothing that we could do to it to make it irredeemable. That is what that baby in the manger should say to us, Emmanuel, God is with us. He has not, will not and cannot abandon his creation. God loves it (chesed), a love of covenant faithfulness. God keeps his promises, his covenants. The slowly dawning epiphany on our meltdown minds is that the Father is right now about the work of restoration.
First, on the cross, Jesus took away the penalty of sin which is death. We are rightly afraid to look in that mirror of the law, but it no longer accuses with any power because Jesus took it all. Second, in His word and sacraments, which form the body of Christ and bestow grace on his people. And lastly through that body, the church, the Father proclaims his ongoing restoration. In Christ, you are a new creation, a holy people, a chosen nation, a people walking in his marvelous light.
In His own good time God will bring about the completion of that work. We believe in the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. At that time the sad limitations all of us earthly fathers and mothers face will become but a memory. In the twinkling of an eye, at the sound of the trumpet, all will be changed. Amen, come, Lord Jesus.