Do you enjoy celebrations? And what about being celebrated? Who doesn’t love a great surprise party, a sweet championship victory, a fun wedding reception, or gathering with friends and family to commemorate a special event or holiday? If so, you will love one of my favorite chapters in the Bible. In Luke 15, Jesus is having story time with the scribes and Pharisees of the day. He tells them three different parables (made up stories), and they are all about celebrations. In the first story, Jesus describes how a man with one hundred sheep left all ninety-nine to go find the one that was lost. When he found his lost sheep, he called his friends and neighbors to rejoice with him. He called for a celebration! Jesus then took the opportunity to reiterate the point by saying, “Even so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, than over ninety-nine righteous who need no repentance.” Did you get that? In essence, Jesus was saying that as excited as this man was to find his lost sheep, God is more excited and celebrating big when one of his lost kids comes home.
In the second story, Jesus notes that a woman who had ten valuable coins lost one of them. She searched diligently through the night until she found it. She was so thrilled that she, too, gathered her neighbors and friends to rejoice with her. Jesus then tells His listeners that “the angels of God celebrate over one sinner who repents.” Clearly there is a common thread in these stories. God celebrates when lost things are found!
But Jesus wasn’t finished. His final story, of the three, is one of the most beautiful in all of scripture. In short, Jesus explained in detail how a younger son went to his father and asked for his inheritance. He took off for a far country and squandered every penny in reckless living. He had lost everything and everyone. He was alone, hungry and desperate. In the mire of the pigpen, he came to himself and decided he would go home and beg to be his father’s hired help. I’m sure he rehearsed his speech on that long journey home about how sorry he was. He realized he was unworthy to even be called a son, he had sinned against heaven and his family. But Jesus tells us that when the son was a long way off, the father saw him and ran to him. He was watching and waiting and RAN to him! He didn’t take the opportunity to berate his son, condemn or shame him, instead he embraced his son and kissed him. And then do you know what the father did? He put a robe on his son’s back and a ring on his finger. He called for everyone to come and CELEBRATE because his son who was lost had been found!
Jesus painted the most amazing picture with words of what God does when we come to Him! Even when He knows we have messed up and we aren’t worthy, He treats us like sons and daughters, like royalty and He throws us a party!
So, when we find ourselves a bit lost or weary from trying to do things our way, maybe we’ve gotten off track and missed the mark, we can recall these stories of Jesus and realize that it’s as simple as repenting and turning our hearts toward Him. To repent may sound like an old school religious term, but it just means to have sincere remorse for wrongdoing and to change our way of thinking.
So, this Christmas season, maybe you can’t be with friends and family. Perhaps you feel lonely, out of sorts or even, like the younger brother, hopeless and unworthy. Just know that you are not alone, the Father is looking for you; ready to run to meet you. He is the One who leaves the ninety-nine, the One who searches all night till we are found and He is the One waiting to celebrate us home!
Prayer: Father, thank you for reminding me that You are not the One who condemns, but rather You celebrate when we turn to You. Forgive me when I try to do things my own way, when I lose sight of You. I repent today and feel sincere remorse for actions that offend You or others. Change my way of thinking so that I know You are with me, for me and helping me. I thank You that You and all of heaven rejoice over me and all who come to You. Help me to know and show this love to all that I interact with today.
In Jesus’ name.