By Rob Furlong
Max Lucado tells the beautiful story of a young girl, Madeline and of the unwavering love of her father for her.
Madeline's mum had died in child birth but her father, Joe, loved his daughter dearly and every Christmas Eve they would dance together around the living room of the old home they lived in. But as the years went by Madeline grew into a rebellious teenager and the tension between father and daughter grew to breaking point.
As a single dad Joe found it difficult to cope with his daughter's piercings and dress sense and then came the day that she wanted to bring her boyfriend home on Christmas Eve. Joe was infuriated and he was shattered when she turned her back on him and left the house in a rage after he asked her to dance with him on Christmas Eve. Later that week she left home for good, bound for Chicago – it would be a long time before they spoke to each other again.
Madeline moved in with her boyfriend but a bitter argument ended the relationship and she found herself in a homeless shelter without money and no real prospects – until a girl at the shelter showed her the amount of money she had earned dancing at a nearby "club". Madeline disguised the shame of what she did behind her pretty face by rationalising that she could never go home and admit that she was wrong.
Somehow her dad had managed to track down the fact that she had been living with her ex-boyfriend and so from time to time letters from her dad that had been delivered there were dropped off to her at the club. Not once did she ever open them! She refused!
Time passed but the letters kept arriving and then one Christmas Eve a letter arrived that had not been mailed but hand delivered to the table in her dressing room. This time she opened it and it simply said:
"I know where you are. I know what you do. This doesn't change the way I feel. What I've said in each letter is still true."
For the first time Madeline opened the other letters and each time she read the same simple sentence her eyes would flood with tears again – within an hour she was on a bus, headed for home. Walking out of the kitchen Joe was shocked to see his daughter standing in the living room, still holding a letter.
"If the invitation is still good, the answer is 'yes'" she said.
"Oh yes, the invitation is still good", replied Joe.
And father and daughter danced again, on Christmas Eve, while the letter from her dad lay on a table with the same message written on it that was also found in all his other letters: "Will you come home and dance with your Poppa again?"
The Christmas story is fundamentally about God healing broken relationships by sending His Son Jesus to live and love among us. At its very core, it is about God inviting us into relationship with Himself through the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus. Our broken relationship with God is restored and the potential for the healing of shattered relationships with others is also offered.
The "letter" from God to each of us at Christmas and every day of our lives essentially says this:
"I know where you are. I know what you do. This doesn't change the way I feel. Will you come home and dance with your Poppa again?"
And so, this Christmas, the Father's invitation is still true for us. He invites us to come and dance with Him. To experience the depth of His love for us. To know the wholeness that come from restored relationship. To live out the freedom that only forgiveness can provide.
This Christmas, will you come home and dance with your Poppa again..?