(This is a copy of an article that I wrote for our school newsletter last year. Sadly, however, it is just as applicable today as it was then).
I am a man on a mission. Like so many men on a mission, my mission began with a sense of frustration.
One of our favorite Christmas traditions is making Christmas candy. Kim is a candy making machine. (Now that I think of it, I guess the tradition is more Kim making candy and me handing her ingredients.) When all is said and done, we have peanut butter balls, Martha Washington candy, cookies, brownies, cakes, and a few pies.
Last year around this time I would begin suggesting a day to make candy. The first suggested day was out, because had a previous engagement. So I suggested another day, but that day was also out. On and on it went, until we finally decided we did not have enough time to make the candy. Standing there that day, I made a decision. I vowed that this year we would get things done earlier; we would clear the calendar; and we would enjoy this Christmas season (even if it killed us).
That is why I have been a man on a mission. We are going to finish shopping early. We are hosting parties early. We are decorating early. I am on a mission. We will have time to enjoy the season.
Every time I say this in public, there is always someone who says, “Don’t forget not forget Thanksgiving.” On the outside I stay calm—I might even smile. But on the inside, I want to explode and say, “Do you really think that I will wake up next week and forget it is Thanksgiving Day. I mean the smell of cooking food alone should be a giveaway.”
But when I think about it, I realize it is good counsel, because I could get so busy with that I can, in subtle ways, by pass something important. This is not just could seasonal council, it is a good reminder for all of life. We can get so busy, so focused, and so driven that we can forget to take time and enjoy life now. That is why we need periodic reminders.
In Luke 17, Jesus gives us the same reminder in a gripping way. While traveling toward Jerusalem and the cross, he passes along between Samaria and Galilee. There he encounters 10 men with leprosy.
In the ancient world, leprosy was a death sentence. You lost feeling in your extremities. Your skin turned white. Consequently, lepers also faced the pain of isolation as they were forced to live in a separate community.
When Jesus passes by, they give voice to their desperation. With intensity, they cry out, “Jesus, Master have mercy on us.” Without delay Jesus responds, “God and show yourselves to the priests.”
Jesus was giving them the prescribed thing to do. Every person who recovered from leprosy had to go through a type of proving ritual where they would be pronounced healed. Once this happened, they could rejoin their families and community. As the men turned to walk away, something amazing happened. They were healed.
Seeing the miracle, these lepers become men on a mission. I cannot blame them. They wanted the job finished. They wanted to go home. They wanted their life back. So with haste they seek out a priest.
One of the men, however, had a different thought. In a moment, he went from sick to well. He knew who was responsible. Surely, he thought, should say thank-you. So he “turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving thanks to him.”
Jesus’ reaction is convicting. He says, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?” The questions are convicting, because they highlight the response he expects.
They are also convicting, because I immediately see how I am so often like the nine who were on a mission. In this season where there is so much to do, let us learn from the one who refused to follow the crowd. So this holiday season, let’s be sure that we do not miss thanksgiving.