Advent 2: Lost

The collection of books we know as the Old Testament ends with a very wistful image.

“He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers,” Malachi writes about a prophet who will come.

Imagine the sense of lostness that a child abandoned by his or her father feels. Or maybe you don’t have to imagine. Whether the father actually leaves the family or merely allows his attention to be consumed by activity is pretty irrelevant. The child, with her nose pressed against the window or clinging to the promise to fly a kite or go for Hawaiian ice, has a deep sense of longing.

In Luke 1, when Zechariah is told what his son John will be doing, he is told that “he will turn the hearts of the fathers back to their children.”

The voice right before Jesus, the voice of John, is going to be tapping fathers on their shoulders and pointing to those broken-hearted children and saying, “That’s where repentance starts.” God says, “Go take care of your kids. Go raise them. Go love them. And then they will understand what a father’s love is like, and maybe it will help them understand Me.”

It’s an interesting thing. For people who have found church irrelevant or unsatisfactory, the time when they are most like to reconsider is when they have children. Their attention turns to values, to trying to figure out how to raise kids who live for significance.  The prophecy has a glimmer of fulfillment.

The challenge is that their own experiences with church leave a tension: “I know it’s the thing to do, but if it’s like it was when I was young, it’s the very thing not to do.”

And so we live, noses pressed to the window, wondering. If we could find the church where Jesus would go to church, would it be any different?

6 thoughts on “Advent 2: Lost

  1. Rich Dixon

    Maybe that last line would be a pretty good guiding principle for a church’s decision process.

    “Would Jesus come here?”

    I’ll bet a lot of things would change.

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  2. Jill

    You know how well I know this… How valuable the Heavenly Father is to my children and I as we wait in expectancy for the return of Jesus…the loss of Dad this year for me is nothing in comparison to the emptiness they feel when someone talks about a father who loves them and my kids are sure theirs does not. Yes, they have a loving step-father…but it’s not the same…and in a different way, while the Heavenly Father/child relationship is also not the same, it is so much greater, because He will not leave, He will not abandon, He is never too busy, He is always providing, He is always loving.

    On another note…where wouldn’t Jesus go to church? He entered the temple and cleaned it out. He entered the homes of sinners and redeemed. He received the attention of women of disrepute and forgave. I don’t know if Jesus would be as picky about church as we are.

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    1. Jon Swanson

      It’s interesting, Jill, as I read through your list of places Jesus went, that church is where he *is* rather than someplace he goes to. It’s like he is taking church with him.

      And yes. The tragedy of the appeal from Malachi is that it can be ignored.

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