As we get ready to celebrate the holidays, there are a lot of people who are separated from their families. Not necessarily by distance, but by an inability to relate to each other in a loving and meaningful way. Sometimes there have been years and years of fighting, disillusions, bitterness, and hurt. Sometimes there is a deliberate turning away from one another. Sometimes there is total rebellion against the family values.
Whatever the original reasons, the holidays are a perfect time for families to be reconciled. A time for mending old hurts; a time for repairing relationships. And especially a time for drawing closer to God, as we celebrate the birth of His Son.
There is a wonderful story in the Bible that tells of a family reunited. It is a picture our Heavenly Father's great love for us, His children. It's a familiar story to many of us: the tale of the Prodigal Son.
And he said, "A certain man had two sons: And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the part of my inheritance that you would leave to me. And the father divided all his possessions between them. And not many days later, the younger son gathered all of his portion together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his entire inheritance with riotous living.
And when he had spent it all, that country was suffering a mighty famine; and he began to be in want. And he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country; who sent him into his fields to feed the pigs. And he was so hungry he would have filled his belly with the husks that the pigs ate: but no one would give him anything.
And when he came to himself, he said, All the hired servants of my father have bread enough to eat and to spare, and here I am, starving to death! I will get up and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and against you, too. I am no longer worthy to be called your son: but would you please hire me as one of your servants?
And he got up, and went back to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and hugged his neck, and kissed him.
And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight, and am no more worthy to be called your son. But the father said to his servants, Bring out the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: And bring out a fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: For this is my son who was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is now found. And they began to be merry.
Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant. And the servant said to him, your brother has come home; and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has returned safe and sound. And he was very angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and pleaded with him.
And he answered his father, saying: Look, I have served you all these years, and never once did I go against your word, and yet you never once gave me a kid, that I might have a celebration with my friends: But as soon as your other son came home, who wasted his whole inheritance with harlots, you killed a fatted calf for him.
And the father said, Son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. It was appropriate that we should have a celebration, and be glad: for your brother was dead, and is now alive again; he was lost, and is now found. (Luke 15:11-32)
This story tells us a lot about human nature. Like the Prodigal Son, we have a tendency to be greedy, wanting more than what we have. We are impatient, wanting everything right now. We tend to expect things to be given to us, without having to work too hard or too long for them. We are often self-centered, not considering the needs or wants of others, not caring whether our words or actions cause grief to others. We take others for granted, and sometimes take advantage of those who love us. We are so often wasteful, neglectful of the things we have. We tend to spend our time chasing after things that are detrimental to us, sometimes even neglecting the things we need just to get the things we want.
Even if we stay at home like the "good" son and don't do some of these things, we often allow a root of resentment and bitterness to grow in us. We get angry, hurt, and resentful toward both the ones we consider to be wrong, and the ones who love them anyway. We tend to feel that they aren't deserving of that love, or at least, not as deserving as we are. There is that element of self-pride: look at me, I'm the good one, I deserve better than him. Often we get judgmental, thinking they got just what they deserved. We get discontent, and disconnected from those who love us.
All in all, we human beings are rather sorry creatures, when all is said and done. Oh, but look at the father in the story! Just as the two sons represent us, with all of our wickedness, selfishness, and lostness, the father in the story represents God's great loving kindness toward His children.