By Joel Bates
During the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, I took Abigail on a date. Abigail, my youngest daughter, is known for her enthusiastic joy, her explosive emotion, and her unabashed affection for her daddy. She is also one of the millions of little girls across the country who have been counting down the hours until the release of one of the most infamous horror movies of them all, “Frozen II.”
I decided to surprise her by simply saying, “We’re going on a date.” After a quick pizza supper, I said I thought a movie sounded good. She nodded while stuffing another piece of pizza into her mouth. “It’s opening night for “Frozen II”…if you are interested in seeing it, that is.” Her eyes got wide, and she almost choked on a pepperoni. Her squeal of delight told me I had just achieved fatherhood legend status.
We stood in line with all the other dads and their little girls, many of whom were dressed in various “Frozen” attire—the lacy Elsa dresses and Olaf the snowman costumes. Abigail just grinned as she sidled up to me. I did have a fleeting moment of hesitation as we passed another screen room showing the war movie “Midway.” I felt lured by the sounds of guns and planes and people dying, but Abigail had a tight hold of my hand as we marched onward to “Frozen II.”
We found some good seats near the center of the theater and sat down. Abigail, still grinning said, “I just love ‘Frozen’!” After a few moments she asked, “Do you love ‘Frozen,’ daddy?” I’m a Christian. I’m not supposed to lie. So I dodged the question, “I just love being here with you, sweetie.” I could tell by the look on her face that she wasn’t entirely satisfied with my answer, but just then the movie trailers started, so I was spared.
I’ll not give too much away for the few of you who don’t want me to spoil the movie. (I submit that Disney beat me to it). But, I was wooed right along with all the little Elsa-dress-wearing-lasses when the 3-D snowflakes filled the room kicking off the cinematic magic. Part way through the shameless montages, complete with everything little girls love—princesses, cute Bulgarian hunks, and a sea-galloping aqua horse (Yes, Disney you’ve outdone yourself!), I suddenly felt my daughter’s hand on mine. Then kneeling in her seat, she leaned over, laid her head on my shoulder, and just stayed nestled up next to me.
On the drive home, Abigail chattered away about how much she loved Olaf’s and Elsa’s songs and Kristoff’s hair. She put me on the spot when she asked if I liked “Frozen II” better than “Frozen I,” but again I was able to conceal my disdain by simply saying, “I liked them both about the same,” which is to say I like them both not much. I changed the subject saying, “My favorite part was just being with you.” She pondered that a moment and said, “Yeah…me, too.” Eat your heart out H2O princess stallion!
I was reading from the gospel of Matthew the other day with my kids. It was the passage in which Jesus tells people about the Good News of the Kingdom of Heaven. One of my children spoke up, “What exactly is the Good News?” The first thing that came to my mind was the cross of Christ, that single sacrifice done once for all people. The next thing that came to my mind was the resurrection of Christ, that moment when He walked out of the grave completely conquering death. As we read the parable of the merchant looking for a pearl of great value, I realized that God is the merchant in the story, and we are the pearls. He was willing to purchase us at a great price, giving that of greatest value to Him.
The Good News is about a heavenly Father reunited with His children. As hard as it is to imagine, God the Father actually wanted to be with us. He wanted an intimate relationship with us. He wanted us so badly that He was willing to send His Son Jesus to die for us. It was through Jesus’ coming to earth as both God and man, dying, and then rising again--bridging the gap of separation—that declared just how far God was willing to go for us. The Good News is all of this interaction and sacrifice, which can be truly captured in a common word heard at Christmas: “Emmanuel.” It means, “God….With….Us.”
I experienced a little bit of “Emmanuel” truth while taking my daughter to a movie I had no personal interest in seeing. I did it because I love her and desire a wonderful relationship with her. That moment of closeness between this father and his child, having her rest against my shoulder, was priceless and made all the effort worthwhile.
I hope you will experience some “Emmanuel” truth this season. The truth that God wants to be with you. He proved it by sending His most cherished gift in the form of a baby. So, clear out the distractions and turn off the noise of the season to spend some time just nestled up with the Father of all creation. Celebrate Christmas—God with us…the Good News.
Come along side us as we journey in and out of the wilderness, discovering our Creator in creation.