Christmas Eve dinner cooked and waiting on the table. The presents wrapped and under the tree. The children anxious and ready to get started, but mother insisting that they wait for father. He had been scheduled to work the day shift at the local production plant—twelve hours of packaging and loading before the facility shut down for Christmas. The children watched the front door in anticipation, but the door didn’t open.
Father should have been home hours ago. Now mother waits, the dinner ruined, and the children put to bed. She has little doubt as to where father is, and tears fill her eyes—knowing he won’t be home until morning. Their young daughter, hoping to catch a glimpse of Santa Claus, sneaks from her bedroom, only to watch from a distance as her mother weeps. Years later, she learns where her father was that night, and my heart breaks as she relives the pain, and expresses her unbelief in a God who could offer a man like her father forgiveness.
Isaiah prophesies of Jesus, “Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
It is hard to believe that God might save the wicked. It is hard to accept that faith in Jesus Christ might remove the sins of a life that has caused us only pain. We want vengeance. We demand it, but the Lord says that vengeance belongs to him (Deuteronomy 32:35). He tells us, “I will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing…” (Ecclesiastes 12:14).
Sometimes we refuse to forgive, because we want to see our tormentors suffer—we want to see them feel the pain they have caused us. Perhaps we desire this because we haven’t properly understood the crucifixion. We have not pictured the crown of thorns forced down upon our tormentor’s head. We haven’t heard the crack of the whip, or seen the rip of the flesh. We haven’t heard the clang of the hammer, or the thud of the post as it is dropped into the ground. We haven’t seen Jesus for all that he is—not just our own personal savior, but the savior of our enemy as well.
Vengeance, indeed, belongs to the Lord, for unto us a child was born, unto us a son was given (Isaiah 9:6). Jesus did not come to save the righteous, but the unrighteous, and all who declare with their mouths that he is Lord and believe in their hearts that God raised him from the dead will be saved (Romans 10:9). No exceptions, no matter how wicked.
We have all failed to come home for Christmas. We have all betrayed trust, left our loved ones waiting. We have all lied, stolen, been unfaithful, pursued our own pleasure and gain. Yet, for those of us in Christ Jesus, the wrath of God is satisfied. The blood of Jesus is indeed enough.
Repent—turn from your sin and trust in him. He came for the unfaithful, the liar, and the thief. He is enough for the father who failed to come home, the mother who is lost in her grief, and the child who needs to forgive.
Call on him, and he will come to you. He has never failed to do so. Everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
Rev. Troy Tysdal is Director of Communications and Prayer for the Church of the Lutheran Brethren, and serves as editor in chief of Faith & Fellowship magazine.