In his book Eat this Book, Eugene Peterson teaches us to chew on a passage of scripture, digest it, and then put it to use in practical ways. Our Christian fathers and mothers called this process Lectio Divina. In this passage, a run-away son comes home to a loving and forgiving father and discovers he could never be too far gone.
Luke 15: 22-24 (MSG)
“When he was still a long way off, his father saw him. His heart pounding, he ran out, embraced him, and kissed him. The son started his speech: ‘Father, I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned before you; I don’t deserve to be called your son ever again.’
“But the father wasn’t listening. He was calling to the servants, ‘Quick. Bring a clean set of clothes and dress him. Put the family ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Then get a grain-fed heifer and roast it. We’re going to feast! We’re going to have a wonderful time! My son is here—given up for dead and now alive! Given up for lost and now found!’ And they began to have a wonderful time.”
It seems to me that the one of the best Christmas stories in the Bible is the story of the prodigal son and his father. This mini-biography is our story, individually and collectively. We have sinned and gone astray. Our minds have been rebellious and our actions have followed. Our pride keeps us away from the Source of healing. Once we bow for healing, our negative thoughts about ourselves give the gift right back. We want to grovel and God wants only to LOVE us – and then help us do better. Just like the prodigal son, we need to see ourselves clearly and return to the Father. And just like the father, God wants lift us up and celebrate our homecoming. What better gift could we receive at Christmas – and every day before and after?
♥ For the rest of Advent, focus on the image of God running toward you as you run to him (see image below). This, after all, is the quintessential image of Christmas.
♥ Human beings are capable of bashing themselves even after they have found Christ’s forgiveness. The next time you call yourself stupid or dumb or idiotic – or worse, confess your failure to understand God’s love and picture your return to God’s vision of you as someone to love and celebrate. The next time someone else says these words (or worse) to you remind them that regardless of their opinion, God loves you delights in you. If you can’t summon the courage to say it, think it!
♥ Read the book Long Way Gone, by Charles Martin (see the excerpt below as well as a link to my recommendation for the book.)
MORE FOOD FOR THOUGHT
“Here’s my favorite picture in this story. It’s the father. Still standing on the porch. Yet to leave his post. One hand shading his eyes. Scanning the Horizon. Searching for any sign of movement.
Something atop the hill catches his eye. He squints. Leans. The space between his eyes narrows. The father exits the porch as if shot out of a canon. This picture always gets me. Son running to father. Father running to son. Having closed the distance, the son falls at his father’s feet. He is groveling. Face to toes. Snot mixing with tears. He can’t even look at him. “Father I have sinned . . .”
The father will have none of this. Scripture says the father ‘ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.’ A more accurate translation is ‘covered his face in kisses.’ Pause here: I need this picture maybe more than all the rest: the father kissing the son of squalor who willfully betrayed him. Gave him the finger. How many times have I done this? I cannot count” (by Charles Martin in Long Way Gone, p. 288).
To read my recommendation of Long Way Gone by Charles Martin click here.
To read more on the story of the Prodigal Son from the elder brother’s perspective click here.