This past February my family had the exciting opportunity to enjoy a family vacation at Disney World in Orlando, Florida. This is the fifth time I have been to Florida. My parents took my brother and I when we were 4 and 5 and again when 13 and 14. Later my wife and I celebrated our honeymoon there in 91’ and a pre-children vacation in 93’. I enjoy Florida and this year enjoyed taking my family there as well. My wife and I and our kids had a blast in the warm weather at Cocoa Beach, Wet and Wild, Give Kids the World, and all four Disney theme parks.
On one day while racing to all the attractions at Magic Kingdom I noticed a sign that advertised, “The Greatest Celebration on Earth.” As I thought about that sign I reflected that this was not just another trumped up advertisement, but in fact it was true. I was in fact standing in the midst of the greatest celebration on earth. We had fantastic rides everywhere, great food, amazing sights, fireworks, landscapes, movies, shows, warm sun, and crowds of people all cooperating with the program for fun. It was awesome.
Yet I was saddened that in the midst of the splash and excitement that my heart felt a deep splinter of pain. There are billions and billions of people across the earth whose life is no celebration, but instead is war and tragedy torn. My celebration at its best could only be bitter sweet. How can I share good things with all those people?
Moreover, the Lord will not let me forget that as wonderful as our celebration may be there is a day when each of us will step off this earth to meet the Lord Jesus Christ. Will that meeting be a cause for celebration? The crucifixion of Christ demonstrates that mankind was not pleased to see Jesus the first time. So it would seem that if there is to be any joy in the second encounter that some change is needed. Since God is too good to need to change, that would leave the ball in our court for change.
Jesus does offer us hope to that end.
He told them this parable. 'Which of you men, if you had one hundred sheep, and lost one of them, wouldn't leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one that was lost, until he found it? When he has found it, he carries it on his shoulders, rejoicing. When he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!' I tell you that even so there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, than over ninety-nine righteous people who need no repentance.'Luke 15:3-7 (WEB)
Jesus, the master proponent of hope, speaks hope again. Here we read about another celebration. In fact this is the “greatest celebration in heaven!” Jesus reminds us that even though we are lost and guilty of great sin he will seek us out. And when we finally come to repentance a great party erupts in heaven.
There are places in this world were it is a death sentence to admit you’ve done wrong, but in the kingdom of Christ the wonderful thing is that with his grace we can admit we did wrong and ask for forgiveness and the angels throw a giant party in heaven because of it.
Friends, get your heart right and prepare for the greatest celebration in heaven!