During Advent we return to wonder. We return to seeking. To waiting. To longing for God’s love to be shed abroad in our hearts. We want visible signs of His goodness. Though it can be hard to discern wonder sometimes, my heart finds it in sunrise and sunset. They are daily markers of grace poured out for all of us.
But the most amazing thing is that God never turns away from us. Not for a second. God waits with infinite patience and endless love. His heart craves our own weak, wary and faltering hearts. He longs for us to develop a growing awareness of who He is and His love for us. Then we discover how to encounter Him in our everyday existence.
This week our art of Advent focus is on The Prodigal Son painting by Rembrant. It celebrates the prodigal son’s eventual return to his father and the home where his heart belonged. If we look closer, we see how it mirrors our relationship with God. A classic demonstration of the way He joyfully welcomes us back when we have strayed.
Returning to the Father
“So he had this moment of self-reflection: ‘What am I doing here? Back home, my father’s hired servants have plenty of food. Why am I here starving to death? I’ll get up and return to my father, and I’ll say, ‘Father, I have done wrong—wrong against God and against you. I have forfeited any right to be treated like your son, but I’m wondering if you’d treat me as one of your hired servants?’ So he got up and returned to his father. The father looked off in the distance and saw the young man returning. He felt compassion for his son and ran out to him, enfolded him in an embrace, and kissed him.” – Luke 15: 17-20 The Voice – (emphasis mine)
The Prodigal Son
The father stoops to comfort, to welcome
home his lost and errant son.
No rebuke. No reproach.
Only a ring on the finger,
a sizzling roast dinner
and a fresh set of clothes.
This prodigal had strayed, lost
his way and lost himself
to baser things.
Turned his back, then turned
full circle to return again.
He came home as one who has seen
the seedy side of life,
the degradations of squandering
his inheritance, his wealth,
his soul on loose living.
He came with shame, humiliated
by his own behaviour,
by the state he was in,
expecting to be treated as he thought
but met with mercy instead.
More than that, he encountered open
arms and open heart, a warm
embrace, tears, forgiveness, grace,
acceptance, a kneeling father pouring
out nothing but love.
We are prodigals, stray sheep
who have wandered off
and squandered the gifts our God
has lavished on us,
without a thought.
Yet he receives us all, comes running
barefoot in our souls, in his haste
to comfort, not to scold.
And to hold us close, this child he’s
lost and esteems as precious
and dearly beloved.
“The father stoops down to embrace his filthy and disgraced son, not caring what state he is in, so long as he is safely home.” – The Art of Advent: A Painting a Day from Advent to Epiphany by Jane Williams
Our own homecoming
However we view it, we cannot help but be amazed by how this story points to our heavenly Father’s grace. And be reminded of the way Jesus makes His home in our hearts by faith.
Whether we’re aware of it or not, we’re all seeking a home of the heart, a place where we feel accepted and loved. Therefore God’s invitation in Christ is open to all who return to Him. Even if we stray and fail God again and again, the door stays open. And one day we will joyfully return to our eternal Home with Him.
“Jesus replied, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them.” – John 14:23 (NLT)
*PS: You can read the full account of the Return of the Prodigal Son here.*