December 19 Advent Devotional
December 19, 2020
Then the father[a] said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’” – Luke 15:31-32
After receiving a significant inheritance, Person Y spent his twenties at home with his wealthy family living modestly and disciplined with a focus on family, forgiveness, generosity, and compassion – all the while working for little wages at the family business. Person X placed all value on other ideals such as material items (cars, boats, houses, lothes), created habits that promoted self over everything else such as imbibing and taking from others without giving anything in return, and wasting any and all resources until they were completely depleted.
Upon returning home hungry, broke, miserable, and asking for forgiveness, Person X’s parents rejoiced while his brother, Y, became frustrated that his parents would welcome home a deviant with such open arms. Thus; we arrive at the scripture for today (Luke 15: 31-32) in which Person Y’s parents tell him: “’My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”
I have always been open and honest about my life experiences with the hopes that they will provide comfort to those who may have experienced similar challenges, but have a difficult time sharing them. While some of you may have heard me discuss some of my family experiences before, I thought it relevant to share some information about my father’s life – even if he has only begun to repent (in his own ways).
Standing outside in the pickup line in second grade, my best friend Anand Shah squealed with delight as my dad drove up in his brand new Porsche 944 turbo – he thought it was the neatest car ever. I explained that my dad also had a BMW, a French sports car, a house in Charleston downtown by the market, and one in Summerville as well. Just a few years before, he had taken me to the USC coliseum to sit at the speakers table in a standing room only venue as he received the business man of the year award from the state of South Carolina for his efforts in getting millions of dollars of federal funding appropriated to the state for technology in education. Just a few years later as I entered high school, my dad began his plummet and was soon living under a bridge and in homeless shelters in Charlotte, NC – asking to borrow a pocket knife for protection in the shelters.
Pops, as we like to call him, has two sisters and a brother. His brother became a highly-successful medical doctor and then dean of a medical school – living the life of Person Y from the story above.
While I didn’t know the full story as a youth, I began to pickup bits and pieces as I got older. He had lived the life of Person X – pushing the boundaries of business ethics, skewing his sense of commitment to maximize self- ratification, and placing value on all the wrong things. He is now living modestly, but comfortably near Charlotte and seems to finally be moving towards those critical themes of reconciliation, compassion, and generosity.
So, what do you take from this personal experience? Live righteously or you will end up homeless? God forgives everyone as we should? Eliminating the habits from Person X’s experience brings more peace to one’s life? While these may all be true, I believe that all lives are a series of ups and downs – shifts along the spectrum of prayerful living. Those that have experienced the worst, may be the only ones that can truly experience the best. While my uncle may be at peace and appreciate the contentment in his life, I believe that my father’s appreciation for what he has now is much greater because of what he’s experienced before.
God forgives, encourages an open mind, and provides the way to peace. We must remember that those with pasts different than our own can still appreciate God’s gifts – quite possibly more than we can ourselves. During this Advent season, ask those around you about their story – what do they appreciate and why?
Gracious and loving God, provide comfort to those that are in the throes of struggle, lost, or on the downswing of prayerful living. We thank you for your guidance, forgiveness, and comfort. Give us the strength to remain open, loving, and appreciative. Amen.
Submitted by: Harry Hoppmann