“For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found” (Luke 15:24).

It is possible to know God and yet be far from him.

Most Christians know what that is like. Perhaps you have had the experience of drifting away from God. You never meant it to happen. But somewhere along the way, you made some wrong choices, and one day you woke up to find that God was far away from you.

This happens irrespective of your spiritual pedigree. You might be an elder or a deacon and still be a long way from God. You might be a Sunday School teacher, a youth leader, an usher, a member of the choir, a Bible Institute student, and still be far from God. You may have been raised in a Christian home only to grow up and reject your heritage. You may have been deeply hurt by someone who claimed to be a Christian, and that deep hurt has kept you from coming close to God. You may have decided no one can truly live up to what the Bible commands. Perhaps you feel discouraged over repeated personal failure. You tried and tried and tried, and finally, exhausted, you gave up.

Something like that happened to the prodigal son.

He left his family, and he wasted his inheritance in the “far country.” Only then, having lost everything that mattered to him, did he wake up and begin the long journey home. He must have wondered how he would be received.

It’s certainly easy to criticize the prodigal son. But I will tell you at least one good thing about this young man.  When the time came to move, he moved. He didn’t let the grass grow under his feet. So many people say, “Tomorrow I will arise and go to my father. Next year, next day, next month. Give me some time to think about it.” This man said, “I am going to go.” And he got up and went right then.

He needn’t have worried about his reception because his father ran to greet him. It is a parable of Christmas. We are all prodigals running from the grace of God. Left to ourselves, we will die in our sins. But God would not leave us alone.

Jesus left heaven to save a race of prodigal sons and daughters. Do you know someone who is in the “far country” of sin? Keep praying and keep believing.

Light shines from Bethlehem to point the way on the long journey home.

Almighty God, we pray today for those who are far from you. Give us faith to keep praying until our prodigals finally come home. Amen.

Musical bonus: We have a special treat today. If you need some inspiration, I hope you’ll listen as Sara Evans performs this down-home version of Go Tell It on the Mountain.

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