Summary: We have all chased after the world, shame and pride held us away, but the invitation of the Lord is the same, "Come Home."
THE FORGIVENESS OF GOD
THEME: THE LOVE OF GOD IN FORGIVING OUR SINS.
Five year old Madeline climbed into her father’s lap. “Did you have enough to eat?” he asked her. She smiled and patted her tummy. “I can’t eat any more.” “Did you have some of your Grandma’s pie?” “A whole piece!” she said. Joe looked across the table at his mom. “Looks like you filled us up. Don’t think we’ll be able to do anything tonight but go to bed.” Madeline put her little hands on either side of his big face. “Oh, but, Poppa, this is Christmas Eve. You said we could dance.” Joe faked a poor memory. “Did I now? Why, I don’t remember saying anything about dancing.” Grandma smiled and shook her head as she began clearing the table. “But, Poppa,” Madeline pleaded, “we always dance on Christmas Eve. Just you and me, remember?” A smile burst from beneath his thick mustache. “Of course I remember, darling, how could I forget?” And with that he stood and took her hand in his, and for a moment, just a moment, his wife was alive again, and the two were walking into the den to spend another night before Christmas as they had spent so many dancing away the evening. They would have danced the rest of their lives, but then came the surprise pregnancy and the complications. Madeline survived. But her mother did not. And Joe, the thick handed butcher from Minnesota, was left to raise his Madeline alone. Come on, Poppa.’ She tugged on his hand. “Let’s dance before everyone arrives.” She was right. Soon the doorbell would ring and the relatives would fill the floor and the night would be past. But, for now, it was just Poppa and Madeline.
A love of a parent is a mighty force. There is a natural love for a child. There is the desire to protect and care for the child. I remember when Gabrielle was born. The first words out of Charity’s mouth were “give me my baby.” I remember holding Gabrielle for the first time as a little tear of joy trickled down my cheek. A parent knows the love for a child. God knows this love to for his creation. God made us to be his children. God loves us with a love that is beyond comprehension. God just wants the best for his children like most parents do.
But rebellion flew into Joe’s world like a Minnesota blizzard. About the time she was old enough to drive; Madeline decided she was old enough to lead her life. And that life did not include her father. “I should have seen it coming,” Joe would later say, “but for the life of me I didn’t.” He didn’t know what to do. He didn’t know how to handle the pierced nose and the tight shirts. He didn’t understand the late nights and the poor grades. And, most of all, he didn’t know when to speak and when to be quiet. She, on the other hand, had it all figured out. She knew when to speak to her father—never. She knew when to be quiet—always. The pattern was reversed, however, with the lanky, tattooed kid from down the street. He was no good, and Joe knew it.
And there was no way he was going to allow his daughter to spend Christmas Eve with that kid. “You’ll be with us tonight, young lady. You’ll be at your grandma’s house eating your grandma’s pie. You’ll be with us on Christmas Eve.” Though they were at the same table, they might as well have been on different sides of town. Madeline played with her food and said nothing. Grandma tried to talk to Joe, but he was in no mood to chat. Part of him was angry; part of him was heartbroken. And the rest of him would have given anything to know how to talk to this girl who once sat on his lap. Soon the relatives arrived, bringing with them a welcome end to the awkward silence. Ad the room filled with noise and people, Joe stayed on one side, and Madeline sat sullenly on the other. “Put on the music, Joe,” reminded one of his brothers. And so he did. Thinking she would be honored, he turned and walked towards his daughter. “Will you dance with your poppa tonight?” The way she huffed and turned, you’d have thought he’d insulted her. In full view of the family, she walked out the front door and marched down the sidewalk. Leaving her father alone, very much alone.