return - wonder - winter sunset - Advent (C)joylenton @wordsofjoy.me

return: God welcomes prodigals with open-armed love

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.

God waits with infinite patience and endless love. He longs for us to develop a growing awareness of who He is and His love for us. #advent #prodigals #Godlovesyou #wordsofjoy Click To Tweet

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

return - Return of the Prodigal Son by Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn (C)wikipedia.org

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
he deserved,
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.
© joylenton

“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.

Jesus makes His home in our hearts by faith. #advent #relationship #hope #wordsofjoy Click To Tweet

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)

We're all seeking a home of the heart, a place where we feel accepted and loved. #home #heart #love #faith #hope #advent #wordsofjoy Click To Tweet

*PS: You can read the full account of the Return of the Prodigal Son here.*

return - the prodigal son poem excerpt (C)joylenton @poetryjoy.com

4 thoughts on “return: God welcomes prodigals with open-armed love”

  1. Dear Joy,
    Oh your thoughts here today are so beautiful. You know that I love this painting of The Return of the Prodigal, having spent many months in a study based on it. So to be reminded today, when I have been so aware of my own weaknesses & tendency to turn away, is so precious. These words especially: “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 is so good to continue to call us deeper into His heart of love for us, and into His heart of love for those around us too. Oh may I let Him shape my vision, and rejoice in the beauty of these thoughts:

    “Yet he receives us all, comes running
    barefoot in our souls, in his haste
    to comfort, not to scold.”

    Blessings, love, and hugs to you Dear Friend! May you have a Wonderful Advent Season! xoxo

    1. Dear Bettie, I’m so glad to have given you a fresh reminder of The Return of the Prodigal painting. It speaks volumes, doesn’t it? We can never plumb the depths of God’s all-consuming love for us. His grace is beyond our ability to fully fathom. Our national tendency may be to turn away, ashamed of our weakness and broken state, yet God continually lures us back to Himself and heals our wounded souls. I echo your closing prayer. Because I might be given the words to write but my fickle mind often chooses to forget how very much I am loved by God. As often happens, the stanza you highlighted here is one I need to take to heart and remind myself of. Blessings, love and hugs to you too, dear friend! May times of Advent rest and peace increase your sense of hope and expectation and the nearness of God’s presence. xoxo 💜

  2. It sometimes baffles me that God is so infinitely patient with us, Joy. That no matter how many times we wander away from Him, He welcomes us with bottomless love. “No rebuke. No reproach.”

    I love this picture! So, so comforting and full of hope!
    “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.”

    Blessings, love, and hugs to you!

    1. I share that bafflement, Trudy. We can scarce comprehend it. No wonder God’s grace is sometimes seen as too scandalous to believe. It sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? And yet it is. I love those lines as well, if I’m allowed to say that about a poem I have written! Though Holy Spirit certainly provided the insight, inspiration and means. It is such a beautiful picture of God’s love for us and the ardency of His heart. May we learn to accept it for ourselves and gratefully share the Good News with others. Blessings, love and hugs to you too, dear friend! xo 💜

Your words matter. I'd love to hear from you.