The kingdom of God is like unto a man decorating his home for Christmas. The man—being a man—required close supervision for any endeavor combining the words “decorating” and “home.” Fortunately, the queen of the manor took great delight in such matters. She gladly volunteered to oversee his efforts.
Numerous pilgrimages were made to far off lands named Attic and Closet. He returned with boxes of Christmas past, trailing the exotic aromas of evergreen, cardboard, and dust. Stockings were hung by the chimney with care. Ceramic Santas shared the mantle with a nativity scene. Artificial wreaths with fresh bows garlanded the doors and windows.
Finally, a coffin-sized box came thumpity, thump, thumping down the stairs. It contained the dismembered limbs of a fake fir. Working from the bottom up, the man painstakingly inserted each branch into its proper place. Soon an artificial, eight feet tall Christmas tree graced the room.
While his better-half organized ornaments, the man attacked a mare’s nest of tangled lights. A series of exclamations not in keeping with the holiday season soon followed! He angrily slammed the lights on the floor, and several shattered into glass shrapnel. Grabbing car keys and wallet, he journeyed to a distant emporium and purchased ten new strings with one hundred lights each.
The man wrapped the one thousand light bulbs around the fir’s branches. Extension cords stretched to every available outlet. When he finally finished, the entire family gathered for the lighting of the great tree. “Oohs” and “ahhs” greeted the glorious advent.
The husband/father settled into an easy chair with a double shot of eggnog. His wife banished the children and spent three hours placing the ornaments just so on each limb. Then they all stood arm-in-arm surveying the golden glow of the Christmas tree.
That’s when he saw IT. One string at the tip-top of the tree remained stubbornly dark. One hundred lights were not burning! The man frantically checked and rechecked plugs and fuses. He finally had to admit the obvious: one bulb must be burnt out. His spouse chose this moment to ask if he had checked the lights before putting them on the tree. Seeing the look in his eye, she quickly retreated from the room.
Light by light, the man wearily checked each bulb. One, two, three . . . . Midnight came and went, but he remained faithful to his task. Ninety-eight, ninety-nine . . . . Of course it was the final bulb that proved to be the problem.
But, oh, what a wondrous sight when the string finally came to life! All the hard labor and heartbreak were forgotten. He stood basking in the warm, Christmas light. Then he awoke his wife and children and cried out, “Rejoice with me; I have found my burnt out light!” The family celebrated with a bottle of eggnog and a plate of Christmas cookies.
I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents of the darkness than over ninety-nine righteous persons who already live in the light. (Luke 15:1-7)