It’s one week until Christmas. Parents frantically race around trying to find last-minute gifts. Children snuggle in their beds with visions of sugar plums and so on and so forth and what have you. Feliz Navidad makes its final rounds.
You know as well as I do…we have made ourselves too busy this year. It’s easy to do so. One of the main prefaces of the season is spending time with others, but we have done so to the detriment of our hearts.
We equate busyness with productivity. If our time is consumed with wrapping presents, baking cookies, and singing Christmas carols, then maybe we don’t have to spend time reflecting.
The fun of Christmas is certainly not bad or evil, but we have a knack for taking something meant for good and refusing to let it stay there.
The whole point of the season is centered around a sweet, smiling baby boy born in a barn. His arrival signified the beginning of a new time. He brought hope into the world. Our Christmas would not mean anything without him.
This season, may you carve out a space in your heart for light to fill.
How many times have you felt hopeless? Counting each passing second until something happens. Maybe you are waiting to hear back from the doctor’s office about some test results. Or, you are dating person after person wondering when you are going to find your future spouse. You could be expecting a call about a job offer.
There are moments when we identify with the father in the parable. We spend our time looking out the window, hoping to see a glimpse of someone or something heading down our path. We want to have the moment when we see someone top the hill, so we can take off running toward them and squeeze them with everything we have in us. We want our waiting to pay off.
In Jesus’s parable, the immense despair turns into a demonstration of pure love. The crux of this story is the embrace between the father and his returning son. The intimate beauty we see when the dad refuses to shame or punish his son for his actions. We read the story and want the same grace to be shown to us. We desire the idea of our sins being forgiven with no questions asked. We long for a moment where our past no longer defines us. We want to go home.
My brother studied abroad in Germany one summer. None of my siblings or I had ever been far from home by ourselves, so my parents were understandably on edge. They circled his return date on the calendar and checked it every day to see how much longer until he returned.
Finally, the day arrived, and my sister and I created some cute and tacky ‘Welcome Back’ signs to carry with us to the airport. We pulled in to the parking lot a good thirty minutes before arrival and watched the planes taxi about on the different runways.
The electronic board in the center of the airport notified us his plane was in and ready for passengers to depart. We huddled together and threw up our signs. He walked out of the terminal and smiled. He was exhausted from his journey, but he was glad to be home. We took turns hugging his neck and left to celebrate over pizza.
My idea of the prodigal son story was reshaped after this encounter. I had never before experienced greeting someone who was coming home from a long journey, especially a close family member.
Unlike the son in the story, my brother went away on good terms and knew he’d return in a matter of weeks. It didn’t stop our family from missing him and awaiting his arrival. How much more so did the father in the story anticipate and long for his son to come back?
I can only imagine the weight of sorrow the father in the story felt. He had no calendar to which he could point and countdown the passing days. Each day took longer than the previous one to complete.
When you’re waiting on something to happen, sometimes your mind plays tricks on you. It makes you think time is passing quickly, but at the same time it feels as if it’s going slowly. The father was hopeless.
How many times have you felt this way?