There are moments in the Christian life when you think the rest of the world has cottoned onto the fact that Jesus is the best news ever; those moments occur when you see or hear something that seemingly accords with this that you hold dear. Whenever it happens to me, I am caught unawares: ‘What?! Does that say what I think it does? Oh my. I mean, Amen! How great! They are praising God, just like me!’ Such a moment arose for me a while ago when I spied this poster:
That I was strolling through a shopping centre seemed momentarily irrelevant. That the poster hung in the window of a stationery store was fleetingly forgotten. That promotions for aftershave and shirts screamed from the stores around me was initially of no concern. I simply thought, ‘Yes, my Dad is King, my Father is the heavenly Father, Lord of the universe, King & Sovereign over… Oh wait, it’s about Father’s Day. Darn. I’ll take a photo then’.
You can’t resist dissecting an image like this. I mean, they simultaneously got it so wrong and so right.
So wrong, because in order to infuse such a day of remembrance (brought to you by Hallmark) with a new kind of meaning this year, the marketing geniuses of the stationery store were forced to elevate fathers to that highest place they/we don’t deserve: royalty. Buying a mug or diary emblazoned with this is designed as a kind of cheap way to cover up the father’s shortcomings (and that of you the customer) for the year past, by pretending he’s almost perfect and you the customer think so too. I’ve been a father for 2 ½ years (read: long enough), and I know I don’t deserve this accolade. That’s how, in this poster, they got it so wrong.
Yet they also got it so right. Humanity craves a father to trust, to find shelter in, to sink weary bodies into, to adore, to keep on a never-toppling pedestal. The advertising was effective precisely because people, wittingly or not, look to earthly fathers to protect, to provide, to be tender, to be tough, to teach, to approve, to be a king yes but not at the expense of being a Dad.
Unbeknownst to this store, they had put in neon lights the cry of every generation: GIVE ME A KING I CAN CALL ‘DADDY’! And Christmas is God’s answer to this cry.
When Jesus was born on earth, God was signalling his intent to make his home with people like us (that’s John 1:14, The Word became flesh, and made his dwelling/pitched his tent, among us). In other words, the all-powerful King of creation was willing to be the exact opposite of aloof: the King came down off his throne. As an equal? Not exactly. Sure, Jesus was fully man, but did he retain distinctness among men? Yes, for being sinless, for being sanctified, for being (ultimately) Saviour. This is how we can call our King ‘Daddy’: we put our trust in Jesus, by whose cross & resurrection we are called brothers and sisters of & in Christ, as we enter the God’s family.
And in doing so, we say we submit to our new King’s dominion; the great thing is this is liberty, not slavery, aimed at maximising our joy. Because our King’s also our Daddy, we are assured he’s going to provide, protect, teach; we are assured he will approve, be tender, be tough, be trustworthy; we are assured he’ll never fall from the pedestal we put him on because he can’t. Because he’s our King. Do you see they must go together?
So I sign off, happily to the manor born.