In HOPE 8.40

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David Timms  


While he was still a long way off, his father saw him, and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him, and kissed him. And the son said to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son." But the father said to his servants, "Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found." And they began to be merry.
Luke 15:20-24

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Christmas Lights


In August 2007, Jeff and Mandy took a week's vacation together. Jeff served as a church pastor and they needed a break.


The week away rejuvenated their spirits and replenished some of their energy. Already married for over 20 years, they talked about the future and made plans together.


But the following week, Mandy dropped her bomb-shell. She wanted a divorce. In fact, she and a client had conducted an affair for months.


Jeff felt shattered. He needed to move out of the house immediately but had nowhere to go.  Dazed and shell-shocked, he decided to borrow a car and drive immediately to Idaho where his aging parents lived. For 20 years he'd had minimal contact with them. In his own words, he had hurt them greatly. But what else could he do in this crisis? Where else could he go to clarify his thinking and plan his next steps?


The drive to the old homestead overlooking the Idaho Valley took many hours. The roads seemed irritatingly congested and road work slowed the trip even more. It was late in the evening - about 11pm - as Jeff approached the family's 10-acre property that had birthed fond memories for three generations.


He pulled over on the shoulder of the road, afraid to face his mom and dad and overwhelmed with his new pain and burden. He considered heading to a local hotel for the night. Yes, that would be best...then call them in the morning and drive out to see them.


But a voice within urged him, "Go on home." Reluctantly, Jeff slipped the car back into "Drive" and eased back onto the road for the final five miles of the journey.


As he approached the family home he saw a strange glow. It was mid-August and the night still had plenty of heat in it. But at 11pm, what could produce this kind of glow. Then he saw it.


His parents had hired someone to put up all their Christmas lights. Lights bedecked the house and the driveway. Decorations stood out on the front lawn. And Jeff's parents - in their 80s - were sitting quietly on the front porch where they had maintained a loving vigil for many hours awaiting his arrival.


Their grace triumphed over his shame. The lights declared "Welcome home!"


As Jeff told me his story, tears filled his eyes. In the midst of his pain and confusion, his parents reflected Christ to him. Their home became a sanctuary for him over the following six months as he processed his brokenness. That godly, older couple facilitated grace and healing for Jeff's woundedness.


How appropriate that they should put out the Christmas lights! Those lights, reserved for Advent each year, signaled not just the coming of the Son of God that August but the coming of their own son.


I wonder.... This year as you see lights strung around homes and front yards, perhaps they'll be more than just pretty decorations. May they serve as symbols of grace and healing for you and others, and a reminder that God has said, "Welcome home!" And look for the Father on the front porch. He's still watching for your coming - the other advent.






[Story used with permission.]


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David Timms serves in the Graduate Ministry Department at Hope International University in Fullerton, California. "In HOPE", however, is not an official publication of the University and the views expressed are not necessarily those of the Administrators or Board. "In HOPE" has been a regular e-publication since January, 2001.