The Year of Mercy is over, but that doesn’t mean God has stopped being a fount of unfathomable divine mercy. In fact, as we prepare our hearts for Christmas during this season of Advent, I think He’s reminding us something important: His mercy never fails.
The Prodigal Son
We all know the story of the Prodigal Son, who wasted His father’s inheritance, chasing sin and pleasure until his choices left him alone and broken. His father’s eager embrace shows us that God, like this merciful father, is always ready to forgive. Our heavenly Father would run out to meet us if we but took a tiny step of faith toward Him.
But there’s one detail about this story that we often overlook: the son’s return wasn’t pretty. He didn’t know what would happen if he turned around and went home. He didn’t know who he was to his father anymore, or if he would ever take him back as a son. The son’s wake-up call was not a moment of peace and clarity, but, most likely, one of desperation: he had nothing left. He realized that the path he was on would only lead to his destruction.
The journey back must have been scary, full of desperation and uncertainty. Coming home wasn’t easy, but the prodigal son had no other options.
It doesn’t quite make for a picture-perfect story, but maybe that desperation is something we can relate to.
When we stray, it’s not pretty. And when we finally decide to come home to Christ, it hurts. It hurts a lot. We feel alone and unsure, having wandered far from our Good Shepherd’s gaze. The road back may seem riddled with uncertainties: Will God accept us? Can we find our way back? Are we too far gone? Where do we even begin?
But, like the prodigal son, if we’re lost, we don’t have to stay that way. And we don’t have to have everything figured out. If the only thing we know is that we need God to save us, that would be enough. That reach, no matter how desperate and fearful it may be, is enough to bring us to His arms.
God has proven time and time again that He’s not going anywhere. Why, then, do we fear the path ahead? Don’t we know He will be waiting for us at the end of the journey, without fail? Even better, don’t we know He’s with us on the way home, too, guiding our every step? The distance we wandered doesn’t change that.
Prepare the Way
These coming weeks present us with a challenge: prepare our hearts for Christ’s coming. As we read on the first Sunday of Advent, the Church is proclaiming a battle cry: “Let us throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light” (Romans 13:11-14).
Advent is no time for comfort. It’s a time for battle, a time to dust ourselves off and choose God, each and every day, no matter how tough it is or how many times we’ve strayed. We’re seeking perfection, not in ourselves, but in Christ alone.
Maybe you’re lost right now. Maybe you have no idea how you could ever find your way again. But if you know just one thing—that you are broken and in need of a Savior—then God will take care of the rest.
Come home. Find rest. You don’t need to have it all together. You need only the name of Jesus upon your lips.
O Come, o come Emmanuel!
Feature image: “Return of the Prodigal Son” by Rembrandt, from Wikimedia commons