The Father Heart of Christmas

Buddy the elf embarked on an adventure because he wanted a relationship with his dad. Rudolph longed for the approval of his papa. Ralphie was terrified of his dad’s temper. Clark gave his family a man who daydreamed about abandoning them for an underwear model. Howard spent the entirety of his movie trying to make up for his absenteeism by buying off his son. And the poor grinch didn’t even have a father.

I really wish daddy issues weren’t such a pervasive problem in our culture, but so many hearts have Christmas memories wounded by their fathers. Emotionally absent, physically removed, all kinds of abusive—harsh and silent men struggle with the call to embody both strength and love, most remembering harmful dads of their own.

Redemption unfurls even here, and the kingdom comes in the fact that the Christmas story itself is one about a good, good Father and His Son. The two venture off on a worldwide rescue mission in search of the perfect Tree.

If you don’t have a category for how it feels to be wrapped up in your hero’s arms, letting him look full into your face through eyes that shine with pride and pleasure, knowing he would fight off armies for you, that he’ll never let you experience difficulty alone, then you haven’t quite met the real Father of Christmas. (No, we’re not talking about Santa Claus.) He’s a major character in the plot of history, but for some reason, He’s typically sidelined each December.

Doesn’t the nativity story seem to shift the spotlight from heaven to earth? It’s like an angel shows up and talks fancy about what God’s going to do, and then lots of stuff happens down here, and then angels sing, and then we don’t hear much more about the Father until Jesus is a full-grown Man.

But what if we peeked backstage while Elizabeth conceives, while Jospeh and Mary make their way to Bethlehem, while the wise men start off across nations, while shepherds leave the 99 to find the One? What might Christmas look like through the Father’s eyes?

Does He dance around in anticipation as Gabriel leaves to pronounce the first words from heaven in four hundred years? Is there fierce joy in His smile as He helps cram Jesus into a couple of tiny human cells? Could He be singing along with the angels with tears in His eyes, knowing the glory this Boy is bound for—and the crushing He’ll have to experience en route to victory? Does He rush to prepare the best robe and ring and sandals so they’ll be ready as soon as Jesus gets back? How much does His heart ache with love for His Son?

And for us?

This Daddy heartbeat doesn’t only pulse for Christ (though there would be no injustice in that)—it hunts us down at His own expense. It grabs us close and kisses us home, whispering love into our ears and peace into our souls. Can you even fathom it! We, the street urchins of eternity, have been summoned as daughters and sons, welcomed to the table, made perfectly right with the Mighty One.

In the words of Downhere’s How Many Kings,

How many kings step down from their thrones?

How many lords have abandoned their homes?

How many greats have become the least for me?

And how many gods have poured out their hearts

To romance a world that is torn all apart?

How many fathers gave up their sons for me?

Only one did that for me.

There is no fear here, friends, no anger or grief or confusion or pain. Because our big Brother paved the way, we can run to His Abba and ours, throw our hands up in the air, and know we’re safe. Provided for. Cherished. The same face that forces demons to scream in terror looks upon us with bright gladness. He doesn’t laugh at us, doesn’t yawn. We are home, home, home in His heart.

This is our Father. This is our King. Behold and wonder!

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