My wife and I have just returned from being with my son, his wife, and their three boys. We were there with them for Thanksgiving and an early celebration of Christmas. A lot has changed over the years. Our love for and pride in our children (and grandchildren) has only grown. The following article was written twenty-one years ago when our son was away at college. It means more, now, than it did when I first wrote it! Getting to be with them only means we miss them more when we are apart. When we know they are coming to see us, our hearts yearn with anticipation. These thoughts remind me of how much our heavenly Father's heart longs to be with us!]
“But while [his son] was still a long way off, his father saw him and... he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him (Luke 15:20).
In just a few hours, he will be coming home. His room is ready, we've made all of our plans, and the waiting is nearly done. It's different being on this end of the separation. Before, I had always been the one who had traveled away and then returned home. I remember the joy of being back home after a long trip. I never really thought that much about being on the waiting end, the longing end, for a returning child.
Waiting for a child to return home is an impatient wait. It's a time of restless anticipation of the greater joy of reunion. It's not like we haven't seen each other in a long time. It's just that I miss him not being here. I'm happy for him — the friends he has made, the work he has done, and the life he has built. But he has been away from me. Home is not quite the same without him. I'm anxious to have him here to enjoy the holidays — our traditional Thanksgiving meal, football, a little shopping, and just "buddying" around. Most of all, I am anxious to have him here with me. Our home will seem a lot more like home with him here.
This waiting has given me a new appreciation for a side of heaven I had never imagined. I think now about my waiting Father. He sent his Son. He watched as his Son bore great indignities and death, then he empowered his Son to triumph over the grave. He rejoiced as the Son poured out the Spirit. He has celebrated with the angels as millions have shared in his Son's death and resurrection through faith, repentance, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Father looks forward, now, to the day he will welcome millions of sons and daughters.
Now, however, the Father waits. He lives in a world of expectation, anticipating the Great Feast when all of his children come home to be with him and share in his eternal thanksgiving feast of joy. This day will be the Father's Thanksgiving, his celebration of a family that has come home.
I guess I've sung the words "Lord come quickly, hallelujah!" thousands of times. In all those times, however, I've never thought about how the Father hears it. How he hears our hearts being homesick for a place we've never been before — homesick most of all for him! I know he longs for this coming day of our reunion, too. He yearns for the day that our faith becomes sight, and we can see him face to face in all his glory. He anticipates the day when he will receive us as his fully adopted children to share in his glory.
Unlike us, the Father knows when that day will occur. He doesn't let anyone else know. It's his surprise! The only reason he waits is so that our feast can be bigger, and his banquet hall will be full of even more of his children. Now, however, I imagine how it is hard for him to wait to have me and to have all of us, home with him.
I know my heavenly Father is looking forward to having me home to enjoy the celebration with him and his other children. I know my big Brother, Jesus, has prepared a room for me in the Father's house. I believe this day of going home, the day of our most fabulous Thanksgiving, will come. Most of all, I now realize that the Father is even more excited about that day than I am. I can also imagine that as he hears me sing, "Lord, come quickly, hallelujah!" he sings back to me, "Child, I long to see you home!"
[Jesus said to his closest followers,] "Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father's house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am." (John 14:1-3).