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Chilean miners rescue parallels Christmas

The rescue of the thirty-three miners trapped for sixty-eight days nearly half a mile underground in a Chilean mine gives us insight into Christmas.  The rescue in October captured our attention has it involved untold millions of dollars, specialists from NASA, drilling experts from a dozen or so countries, and more than 1300 journalists from around the world.  The miners and their determination to survive inspired this country and riveted the world.  As my wife and I watched their plight and rescue, we couldn’t help but notice the parallels to our human condition; a true “reality show.” 

After a cave-in trapped the miners on August 5, their fate was uncertain, at best.  They found shelter in a “safe zone” after an earthquake had cut off the tunnel to the surface.  For the first seventeen days of their entombment they had no knowledge if anyone even knew they were alive let alone looking for them.  They had little food, which they began to ration, and the water available wasn’t pure; it had the taste of machine oil.  In their despair, they began to form factions, arguments developed that required men to be separated from each other, and plans were formulated for individual survival at a cost to the others.  We tried to put ourselves in their place to experience their gut feeling. How would I react? It reminded us of our human condition that resulted from the sin that separated us from what was originally intended and the hopelessness at our condition because there was nothing we could do to save ourselves.

The miners became aware of a vibration, then a sound, and finally an opening to the surface as a drill had found them.  They were overjoyed; not only was someone on the surface aware where they were but they were trying to rescue them!  Medicines and messages where send down to them and they knew it would only be a matter of time before they would be reunited with loved ones.  They would need to wait and to take care of each other until then.  This small, dank, dark hole would not be their home forever nor would it be their tomb. The words of a classic song came to mind: “This world is not my home I'm just passing through, my treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue. The angels beckon me from Heaven's open door
and I can't feel at home in this world anymore.” (words and music by Albert E. Brumley)

A rescue worker stepped into the small capsule – named the Phoenix – painted with the red, white and blue of the Chilean flag.  A mesh door was closed behind him.  Then he slowly disappeared into the darkness.  Likewise, Jesus came as a light to our dark world and a way back to the fullness of life.  Jesus entered the struggle with us.  Through Jesus, the Father entered our world so that we might enter His.  Jesus is the narrow way back to our heavenly Father.  When the choice between living in heaven without us and sending His only Son to become one with us and bring to us back to Him, He chose the latter.  The difference is the miner’s rescuer would be the last to leave while Jesus has gone first to show us, and to be for us, the Way.

Though they survived as a group, each miner must make the trip to the surface alone as there was only room for the one at a time in the narrow opening.  As each miner reached the surface, the crowd in “Camp Hope” down the hill from the escape shaft, as the rescue base camp was named, set off confetti, released balloons and sprayed champagne as the capsule surfaced, joining in a rousing miners’ cheer.  In the capital of Santiago, hundreds gathered and waved flags and chanting victory slogans in the miners’ honor.  One by one throughout the day, the men had emerged to the cheers of exuberant Chileans and before the eyes of a transfixed world.  While the operation picked up speed as the day went on, each miner was greeted with the same boisterous applause from rescuers. "Welcome to life," Mr. Pinera, Chile’s President, told Victor Segovia, the 15th miner out. On a day of superlatives, it seemed no overstatement.

As with the prodigal son’s return, Jesus told us there will be much celebration in heaven when we arrive and a great banquet awaits us.  He has gone to prepare for that day and tells us to prepare as well. In fact, a celebration occurs whenever a person puts their faith and trust in Jesus:  “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them.  Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home.  Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” (Jesus parable in Luke 15:3-7)  What do you think awaits you as you travel the narrow dark tunnel and step into the expansive light at the surface?  Who will be there to love you and celebrate your arrival? How will “pure life” taste? I think when my turn comes to enter the capsule to make that journey alone, recalling this story and the joy that awaits at the end will overcome any fear of the trip.  What’s the reason for my hope?  Christmas!

A rescue worker stepped into the small capsule – named the Phoenix – painted with the red, white and blue of the Chilean flag. A mesh door was closed behind him. Then he slowly disappeared into the darkness. Likewise, Jesus came as a light to our dark world and a way back to the fullness of life. Jesus entered the struggle with us. Through Jesus, the Father entered our world so that we might enter His. Jesus is the narrow way back to our heavenly Father. When the choice between living in heaven without us and sending His only Son to become one with us and bring to us back to Him, He chose the latter. The difference is the miner’s rescuer would be the last to leave while Jesus has gone first to show us, and to be for us, the Way.

Howard & Barbara Magness
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