In the ‘western world’ we are in that time of year when our ears and our eyes are constantly being confronted with images of ‘Father Christmas’.

And what do we see? What do we hear?

We observe an obese, red-suited, laughing fellow who appears for a few short weeks, generates a high level of excitement among little children and potential stress among adults, endeavours to convince each child that he knows who they are and what they want, and each night removes his public veneer and reverts to his real identity, exhausted, perhaps cynical, and certainly not unique.

But there is a real Father.

And from this real Father’s heart comes the real Christmas, the real, unique, ultimate expression of absolute love.

From this Father’s heart comes the greatest gift of all, costly, unrepeatable, once-for-all, permanent and enduring. A gift that surpasses and excels all other gifts. A gift that becomes increasingly vital and impactive with each passing year. A gift that once received renders all other gifts insignificant. A gift that we do not and cannot hold in our hands, but which takes hold of us, embraces us, and carries us safely back to the Father’s heart for this life and for eternity.

This Father does not don a red suit every morning; but the Son he loves, who is called ‘the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the earth’, wears a ‘robe dipped in blood’ [Revelation 13:8; 19:13].

This Father does not emit a flippant and repetitive ‘Ho! Ho! Ho!’ His real Father heart is overwhelmed with deep grief because of us, his rebel children. He knows us each as individuals. He knows what he created us for. He knows how seriously we are lost and how radically removed we are from him and his good purpose for us. He says to us ‘I thought you would call me “Father”’ [Jeremiah 3:19] and through the words of his prophet agonizes over us ‘Oh, that my head were a spring of water and my eyes a fountain of tears! I would weep day and night for the slain of my people.’ [Jeremiah 9:1]. 

This real Father does have joy, not a glib or meaningless joy, but the deep, purposeful, impelling joy of having us safely home, safe and secure in the embrace of his loving heart. For this joy the Son sent from the Father’s heart ‘endured the cross, scorning its shame’ [Hebrews 12:2] so that he, the Lord our God who saves us, could rejoice over us with singing [Zephaniah 3:17].

This real Father gives us neither temporary excitement nor frustration. His heart desires for us permanent and pervasive peace and joy. This was the promise of the angelic messengers who heralded the birth of the Son [Luke 2:8-14]; this is the promise of the Son who came from the Father’s heart [Matthew 11:28-20; John 14:27; 15:11], and the guarantee of his Gospel [Romans 5:1; 1Peter 1:8-9]. 

The character we see in the shopping malls is just an ordinary human disguised as ‘Father Christmas’; we do not see the human, we see only the disguise. Who is it that we see when we look at Jesus Christ? He looks like an ordinary human – birth, flesh, bones, blood, tiredness, hunger, pain, death. But he claimed that if we see him we see the Father who sent him; if we receive him we receive the Father who sent him; if we know him we know the Father. He who came to us from the Father’s heart represents the Father to us. He and the Father are one [John 8:42; 10:30; 12:44-45; 14:6-9].

This incognito God, this Son of the Father sent from the Father’s heart, has returned to the Father and resumed his position of power and glory, taking with him all who acknowledge him, binding us for ever close to his Father’s heart.

For ever. For ever safe. For ever blessed.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2011