One of the most beautiful pictures of God’s generosity can be found in the book of Luke. It is a story about a restless young man who decides to leave his family behind for some fast and wild living. The young man funds his excursion by convincing his father to give him an advance on his inheritance. According to Luke 15:13, he packs his bags and moves to a distant land. After enjoying all of the sinful pleasures that this place has to offer, he finds himself destitute and alone. He decides that it is time to return home.
What happens next is completely unexpected, so much so that it challenges our worldly views and hearts. In our humanness, we anticipate a good scolding for this wayward son. Moreover, we foresee some major consequences for this young man. The son’s actions make us angry, and self-righteousness sets in. Who would choose the company of prostitutes over their own family? Who squanders that much money on women and drink when there are people starving in the world?
A loving father welcomes his prodigal son home and we do not know what to do with it. We are caught off guard because the world we live in today leaves very little room for grace. Furthermore, we are blind-sided by this story’s ending because we forget that we are loved by a prodigal God.
Pink and Purple Candles
In 2018 I learned (and experienced) the true meaning of the Advent season. Prior, I had sat in church during the Christmas season, watching the same pink and purple candles being lit by sweet young families dressed in their Sunday best. It was a precious sight but I did not really understand the significance and weight of the Advent season.
I knew that Advent was about anticipation because the cute and crafty calendars in the hobby stores told me so. Every year I made sure that my kids placed the little plastic candy canes into the pockets of our felt Christmas calendar. We were counting down the days to Jesus’ birth because he was “the reason for the season”. Eventually, the kids and I aged out of the Advent calendar game but we never stopped appreciating the Advent season.
Last year at LifeSpring church we decided to put together our own Advent calendar. I eagerly submitted my calendar assignment, complete with a homemade pizza recipe that would get the kids involved and excited about Advent. Looking back, it was pretty cheesy and not in a literal way. I would regret this decision in the weeks to come.
That first week of Advent I found myself heavy-hearted and it did not make any sense to me. I could not stop weeping. My heart ached for all that was wrong in the world, it ached for my children who had to deal with the pangs of divorce.
I wept for those in my community who were living without their most basic needs being met. I mourned for people who had lost loved ones. The strangest thing began to happen during this time. While I was grieving all of these things, I started to have an overwhelming feeling of gratitude toward God as His promises became relevant to the pain of my life.
This Advent season I am going to allow myself to grieve the brokenness of this world. I am also going to wait with anticipation for the day when all things will be made right.
“The joy of God goes through the poverty of the manger and the agony of the cross; that is why it is invincible, irrefutable. It does not deny the anguish, when it is there, but finds God in the midst of it…” Dietrich Bonhoeffer.