Whenever I have to travel there is a defining moment I look forward to every time. I call it the "TOTE," or Top of the Escalator, moment. If you have ever flown into Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, you know that all arriving passengers have to make their way up a long escalator on their way out.
It always feels good to get to the top of that escalator and know that I am home, or at least only a 45-minute drive from home.
This past Saturday night I had what was perhaps my best TOTE moment yet. On the train coming in from the D terminal I noticed that my train car was filling up with soldiers, even moreso than usual. By the time we got to last stop, I may have been standing in the midst of more than 20 of our nations finest men and women, all with eager looks on their faces.
They were all young, the oldest one might have been 20, and it's not often that I am the "old guy" in a crowd.
As we got to the last stop, I filed out amidst the soldiers and made my way to the elevator. About halfway up, I suddenly realized what was about to happen. These men and women were coming home for Christmas, and there were likely going to be family members anxiously waiting at the top of the escalator to greet them.
Sure enough, when we got to that point on the escalator when you can see over the top, but you aren't quite at the top, I started to hear an enormous cheer, similar to roar of the crowd of a basketball game in a jam-packed high school gymnasium.
There were probably 400 people waiting at the top of the escalator for these heroic men and women. I had never seen such a big crowd waiting to greet arriving passengers.
What I got to see in that one airport moment was a picture of the essence of Christmas in America. Christmas is the incredible story of God's love for the world, and the hope that we can have in God's plan for humanity. Even though men were sinners, God sent Jesus to save us from sin and to bring us into a relationship with Him.
Christmas, then, is the ultimate season of relationship and reconciliation.
I always love singing the old Charles Wesley hymn, "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" at Christmas and specifically the line, "Peace on Earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled." Because of Christmas, God and sinners, who were once far apart, have now been reconciled.
Seeing our American soldiers who have so long been away from their families being reunited with them at Christmas was a picture to me of reconciliation. Watching those soldiers reunite with their families reminded me that I have been reunited to God in Christ.
I am proud to be an American, and I am overjoyed that so many young men and women who have been serving our nation faithfully are able to come home this week.
More than that however, I am grateful for the reason that they are coming home. They are coming home to celebrate the greatest homecoming story of all, the story of Christ and His invitation to a lost and dying world to come to be reunited and reconciled to God through Him.
I pray that you have known this reconciliation in Christ, have experienced God's grace in this, and are one with God through Jesus. Merry Christmas from our family to yours and may God bless you and send you a Happy New Year.
Jason Dees is senior pastor at First Baptist Church of Covington. He can be reached at 770-786-9031 or www.firstbaptistcovington.com or www.facebook.com/jasondees.