When We Feel Like Something’s Missing from Christmas

Christmas is almost here and it’s causing my heart to palpitate. I’m not even close to being ready! How did it get to be December 10 already?

Our tree is still in its box, huddled in the corner of the basement with all the decorations. It’s going to stay there a few more days because there’s work, basketball games and Christmas music concerts.  

Did I want to write a few cards for friends in far flung places? Maybe.

Baking? Haha – don’t make me laugh. My arm has to be twisted at the best of times to pull out the mixing bowls and cookie sheets. With little time left and lots to do? Not happening.

I did get the advent calendars filled with chocolate in time for December 1- so there’s that. 

Life has been busy, as it always is this time of year. Launching a book added a bit more to my To Do list but it was fun stuff. Okay the weather hassle wasn’t fun (we had to cancel it due to freezing rain and rescheduled it the following week) but everything else was exciting.

Watching something you created come to life is a thrill. It’s also scary and vulnerable. People will love it, like it or hate it. Or have no opinion at all. It’s just the way it is. Free choice. I can’t make you read it or like it. I can only put it out there.

Exit Stage Right is a loose retelling of the prodigal. The father in the parable Jesus told, loved his son but he couldn’t make his son love him back. He couldn’t force his son to stay home. He could only put his love out there. It’s a story every parent can identify with. 

It’s also the story we live out every day. The more I learn about the parable of the prodigal the more I see how it intertwines with the Christmas story. God, the father, sent his son, Jesus, as a gift. He gave him to us but he doesn’t force us to love him or follow him. It’s our choice, just like the prodigal had the choice to stay with his father or leave. Free will. We may love Jesus, we may not, but either way God waits for us to decide. 

The one thing I don’t want to do is have no opinion at all. It’s easy to cruise through the holidays and really not engage Jesus. Too much to do, too many distractions. Jesus gets shoved to the end of the line, multiple times a day. I’ve already done it this season. By the end of Christmas, I’m left with the feeling that something slipped through my fingers. I think to myself, “There’s got to be more.” As a follower of Jesus, I know the answer to that question but I’m still left feeling like I missed something. 

My only answer is this – stop and make room for Jesus. The inn was too full but that didn’t stop Jesus from coming to earth. He came to a lowly stable amidst the lowing and snuffling of animals that were housed there. The shepherd that came to the stable that night, made room in their busy lives – they left their flocks (their work) to find him and spend time with him. Are we willing to leave our work, whatever that may be, to search him out and spend time with him? 

Stop. Be still. In doing so, I make room for Jesus in my hectic life. A space where I invite him in. Where I can listen and talk. Where my soul is filled up. Maybe it’s in that quiet space that Christmas comes alive because I have to time to unwrap and get to know the greatest gift of all. 

You can read the Christmas story in Luke 2 and the Parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:11-31.

The Prodigal

The mood is festive, people laughing and singing. The table is laden down with the best meats, cheeses and side dishes. There’s a chocolate fountain in the corner with fruit to dip. A family celebration – not a wedding but a prodigal returned home. 

img_2574

The term prodigal has many connotations, some are negative but not all. In the case of a prodigal returned home, there’s positive mixed in with the negative, creating a bittersweetness about the word. 

We’ve retold Jesus’ parable many times over in many different mediums. It’s a powerful story that we all can relate to in some way or another. We are the parent waiting for our son or daughter to come home. We are the elder son, angry at the grace our father has extended and is, in our opinion, totally unfair. Or we are the prodigal. 

I think prodigals come in all forms because we are all separated from God due to sin. We often think of prodigals as unbelievers or kids who are on a journey of self-discovery. They may be children raised in church but turn away as they become adults. They are all prodigals but they’re not the only ones Jesus is referencing. In the parable, we read that the boy is a beloved son. He is a full-fledge member of the clan but he leaves his Father and family by choice. For me, this is a story of a believer stepping away from their faith. 

Why would someone do that? There are many reasons and seasons in our lives where we get lost; our circumstances are not ideal, busyness keeps us distracted and exhausted or a diagnosis turns our world off-kilter. God seems far off. We feel abandoned. Is He trustworthy? We may believe the grass is greener on the other side of the fence with that job or that person. We willingly step away from our Father because life outside our Father’s household looks so inviting. It’s shinier and prettier and it beckons us with lies. We chase it, leaving behind what’s really important with barely a backward glance.

And God in his grace and mercy let’s us go – free will and all that. Some of us need to learn lessons the hard way to get it through our thick skulls. Sometimes it’s a journey we need to go on in order to discover who God is, what our wounds are and why they matter. We need to figure out who we are in relation to God, the Father.

The Father in the parable, lets the son go but he doesn’t give up on him and neither does God. Others get impatient with us and want us to hurry up and figure it out already. Or they write us off. But God is patient, letting us find the way Home, experiencing the construction and pot holes along the way. He gives us travelling companions who help guide us and He walks along beside us, waiting patiently for us to acknowledge Him. To come Home. This has been my experience.

Whatever kind of prodigal we are, it’s never too late to go Home, no matter what we’ve done. God is there waiting for us, at the end of the driveway.

I’ve written about the prodigal in my book, Exit Stage Right. As I said this story has fascinated me for a long time and I thought it would be interesting to loosely retell it in a modern setting. It’s my hope that the message of hope and love in the prodigal’s story will find a new audience and maybe some that need the reminder that it’s never to late to return Home.