Luke chapter 15 mentions celebration a number of times. It seems that finding a lost coin, a lost sheep, a lost son, and a lost sinner is cause for celebration both on earth and in heaven.
But is repentance a gift or an action?
How does a lost coin find itself? Or a lost sheep find itself? Or a lost son? Or a sinner?
The son in the parable is described as “coming to his senses”. If we meditate on this, it implies that up until that point the son had been closed to the truth. There was a barrier. Was he blinded by his desire to spend up big? Had he imagined his wealth would never run out? Again, he was deluded, and unwise in his decision making up until that point.
What seemed to take away the barrier, the blindness, the unwillingness to look at the reality of his situation was a severe famine, and the associated suffering, including what seemed to be a lack of anyone caring for him.
If we briefly go back to the widow with the lost coin, she lights a lamp and sweeps the whole house to find it. It seems she had decided that her best chance of finding the coin, was not a targeted approach. Her action was widespread/ universal. The whole house must be swept, the whole of the country comes under a famine.
The famine is an action of God, which somehow lights a lamp and allows the starving lonely son to see what he could not see before.
This is the gift of repentance.
It is possible the father knew about the famine in the far-off country and, being a person of faith, hoped that this suffering would indeed bring his son to his senses. And hence, in faith he watches for his son, and sees him from afar.
And then is overwhelmed with joy and must celebrate this repentance without considering the cost.
Every repentance costs the full suffering of our Lord on the cross.
Yet there is celebration before the angels.
Who is before the angels, celebrating?
Is it God the Father himself?
Yes, a lamb is slaughtered for this celebration. But though once dead, this lamb is now alive, and is the author and perfector of our faith celebration.
There are not too many heavenly celebrations mentioned in the Bible. The angels celebrating at creation (Job 38:7), the wedding celebration (supper) of the lamb (Revelation 19) and the celebration of the repentance of sinners are the ones that come to mind. I am not trying to paint a sombre picture of heaven. It is a place of great joy, pure joy. But this joy is even greater when sinners like you and I repent.