The Greatest Hug – by Michael P. Lovett

I. Introduction

I was very busy this Christmas… we didn’t have a tree this year, we had a baby, and family from out of town… it was incredible in many ways and difficult to share our tiny home with my mom, sister, and her boyfriend, in other ways. But one thing I did well this Christmas… I gave hugs…lots of them.  I could tell my mom needed that affection.  I declared 10 second hugs at random times as they scurried to make food or clean the kitchen.  It was good for me.

I think we all can identify the best hugger… Every ministry has one, every family has one… So for our time in the Lord’s Supper I’d like to explore my curiosity for a second.  You see, some people are born really great huggers.

So, Junior High where are you?  Are you guys too cool to hug, or what?  Do you text little bracket hugs or what?

Teens, who might the best teen hugger be?  Go ahead and point to him or her?

Campus, please when I say “go,” point to the best hugger.  Please don’t telegraph the pass.

Singles, there is no contest James Russell is certainly the best, strongest, most backbreaking hugger, so we’ll skip the pointing thing

Marrieds, I know your answer to this question is your spouse, so we’ll move on…

II. What is the greatest, most stand-out hug you can recall?

  • Was it when your child returned home from college?
  • Was it when your child hugged you for the last time before going into kindergarten?
  • Was it when your little 2 year old learned how to squeeze your neck?
  • Was it when you held a newborn nephew, neice or sister or brother?
  • Was it sometime in those first 24 hours after your wife or your husband married you?
  • Was it that hug after a tough argument with your spouse or girlfriend, and it just felt so good to be relieved and done with the argument?
  • How about the hug after you got off the plane, back in the days when your family could greet you right as you came out of the tunnel getting off the airplane?
  • What about the hug from a parent when you expected, when you expected to get blasted or lectured?
  • What about that hug from that special someone you were thinking about dating that was just a little more encouraging, and let you know, whoa, this person feels something for me too?
  • Or how about the roommate hug?  The hug when you moved out after years of ups and downs, and now you had to go separate ways because of a job or a career change or other life event.

Hugs communicate loudly and clearly, intimately, that you are special, that you are loved.  I put before you that God speaks to us, even ministers to us through embraces offered in unconditional love and fondness. 

Warm embraces, if you think about it, teach as much as any number of hours of bible study.  They shine for God.  Hugs are part of how we relate to each other.  God has a plan to romance our souls if we meditate on the power of an embrace.

III. Consider the great embraces of the Bible

Which men come to mind? 

Which women do you recall hugging another person in the bible?

But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept.  Gen. 33

Then Joseph threw his arms around his brother Benjamin and wept, and Benjamin embraced him, weeping.  Gen. 45

Joseph had his chariot made ready and went to Goshen to meet his father Israel. As soon as Joseph appeared before him, he threw his arms around his father and wept for a long time.  Gen 46

Father of the Prodigal Son in various translations “threw his arms around him,” “kissed him [fervently]”  “fell on his [son’s] neck” Luke 15

Esau’s embrace said to Jacob, “I forgive you”

Joseph’s embrace said to Benjamin, “I love you so much, and I missed you greatly, little brother… Thank God we are reunited”

What did the The Father’s embrace of the Prodigal son communicate to the son? “I can’t speak, all I can do is hold you close and weep for joy that you have come back to me.  You think you are the worst, most unworthy person ever, but, no, you are my son, and I ached while you were gone, it left a hole in my heart, now let me just hold you for a while.”  God the Father says this to you every time you return to him; the prodigal son wasn’t a real person, he’s you and me.  The Father in the story isn’t real, he’s an illustration of God the Father, Jesus told the story to show us the power of the greatest hug.

IV. Let’s pray for the elements of communion

Father God, through Jesus right now, we so appreciate this image of the Father of the Prodigal Son, the father of the derelict, running, falling on his son’s shoulder.  We take our places right now as your children.  We need to see you this way, longing for us, looking for us, running to us.  We need a hug, Father.  It’s been too long since we saw you like this–a loving, affectionate, strong father.  We don’t slow down enough to appreciate you, and your affection for us Father.  We need your approval, your touch, and your forgiveness, all wrapped up in a moment of spiritual affection.  Please come now, in a memory of a great embrace we’ve received, or an image from one of the scriptures we just thought about.  Jesus loved people, God, and as we take the bread, we think of his humanity.  Thank you for sending us Jesus.

As we consider the fruit of the vine, we think about all of the tears shared while giving a hug, or getting one.  We feel our awkwardness around emotion, and regret some of the tears swallowed.  Forgive us for holding back tears and hugs and words we could have offered.  Let us be transformed this year, Father, in the way we approach you, because our hero, our Jesus, didn’t hold back.  He wept, he loved, healed and embraced.  As we take the fruit of the vine let us consider some of the best hugs we have ever been blessed enough to receive.

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