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Reunion stories are the best

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I love a good reunion story.

A few years ago The New York Times ran a story about then-New York Giants head coach Jim Fassel and a young man named John Mathieson.

Thirty-four years prior to Fassel and his wife Kitty meeting Mathieson they had been 19 and unmarried — and the parents of a baby boy whose birth and adoption they kept secret from all but their immediate families.

And for 34 years, every April 5 the Fassels privately wished their baby boy a Happy Birthday, adding, “Wherever you are, we hope you’re OK.”

On Mother’s Day 2003, the couple spoke to their son John for the first time and three days later had a family reunion — John, his wife and four daughters and the three brothers and sister Mathieson never knew he had.

The Times reported that Mathieson shared his siblings same chin cleft, inherited from their father.

“Finally, I can look around and say, ‘I fit in somewhere,’” he said.

As for being the son of a renowned NFL coach, Mathieson, an avid football fan, said, “I was already in shock just knowing my natural parents had found me. But when Jim said he was the head coach of the New York Giants, that put me in cardiac arrest.”

Mathieson’s adoptive father had died and his mother, then 74, had given her blessing to find his birth family.

He had been searching seven years prior to finding them. The Fassels had begun their search when Colorado had relaxed its adoption laws and made it easier for biological parents to reconnect with their children.

When Mathieson learned that the Fassels were also looking for him, he cried for two hours straight, he said.

Mathieson went on to say, “My greatest fear in life was that I would want to find my natural parents, but they wouldn’t want me to find them. To find out they were looking for me brought out more emotion than I could ever describe…I’ve waited my whole life for this. My wife used to tell me that there’s always hope, that there is a family that I belong to.”

I love that story. In some ways, this is the story of Christmas. From birth, we’re separated from our Father and we’re never quite settled unless and until we find our way back to him.

King Solomon wrote that God has set eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11) and St. Augustine said, “Thou hast made us for Thyself and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee.”

There’s a sense that something or someone is missing. There are questions that ache for answers, voids that cry to be filled.

That’s why God sent Jesus. Simply put, Jesus came to bring the separated ones back to the Father.

One of my favorite Christmas carols is “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” and especially the phrase, “God and sinners reconciled.”

The apostle Paul wrote, “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him (Jesus), and through him to reconcile to himself all things…by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross” (Colossians 1:20).

In another letter, Paul wrote: “we implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20).

The awesomeness of that message is not that God is passively waiting for his separated children to seek him out and find him, but that he actively seeks them, even sending his own Son to go and get them.
I love the part of Mathieson’s story when he discovers who his birth father is. The next day he goes to work (as general sales manager at a car dealership) and tells his co-workers about finally finding his father.

“By the way,” he says, “he’s the head coach of the New York Giants, Jim Fassel.”

That’s awesome, but how much more awesome is it to be able to say, “My Father is King of all creation?”

Those who were once separated but are now reconciled to God can do just that.

Merry Christmas!

Nancy Kennedy is the author of “Move Over, Victoria - I Know the Real Secret,” “Girl on a Swing,” and her latest book, “Lipstick Grace.” She can be reached at 352-564-2927, Monday through Thursday, or via email at nkennedy@chronicleonline.com.