And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace."
It was not until I began to understand the unspoiled perfection of You, Lord, that I saw the absolute wretchedness of my own state. As I began to understand the incredible power and preeminence of my Creator, I also began to comprehend the foolishness of my own pride. Before I knew You, I mocked You and scoffed at all of Christendom. Now I know that You, oh God, are Reality and You are all that is good and true. That I would mock You... that I would believe my thoughts to have any validity or any relation to reality at all... in the moment I began to know You, I was ashamed. I knew then that my pride was preposterous, and my trespass against You was tremendous. Every bit of selfishness, each speck of hatefulness, anger, lust, and each and every transgression stood out to me suddenly in stark relief. I was overwhelmed by my impurity in the face of a perfect and holy God. My debt was enormous, and I stood accused, deserving of nothing more than suffering, loathing, and death for my crimes.
And yet, You paid that debt. Instead of the wrath that I fully deserved, as I looked toward Your face, I saw One willingly indicted in my place, One who stood between me and a holy Creator and bridged an impossible gap. I saw my Lord Jesus, who with compassion in His face, took the punishment and the unbridled wrath of holiness against sin in my stead. I saw the Messiah, my Redeemer, my Prince of Peace, and my King of kings.
As I began to fathom the depths of Your love, oh God, the price that You paid, oh my Lord Jesus, I knew that my whole life was Yours to do with as You please. I was bought with a price and no longer my own--me, the chief of sinners if ever there was one, who chased after other gods and whose selfishness knew no bounds, me whose mockery must have surpassed even Paul's approval of the stoning of Christians. You saved me, lowly and horrible me, from the chastisement I deserved to the uttermost. You, my King, paid that penalty with Your own life, the spotless Lamb of God who died in my place. Knowing that, I can no longer serve myself, but I am Yours without restraint.
Because You humbled Yourself to live as a man and even to a disgraceful criminal's death in my place, help me to humble myself and to treat others with greater importance than myself.
Because You are merciful, help me to extend mercy to everyone, even to those who have hurt or wronged me without cause.
Because You are patient, grant me the ability to be patient with everyone in every circumstance.
Because You are pure, show me how to avoid impurity in all its forms, even in my secret thoughts and desires.
Because You are loving, help me to look upon all men with Your eyes of love that know no envy, boasting, arrogance, or rudeness and show me how to always hope the best of others.
Because You are good, may it be that my life reflects Your goodness.
Because Jesus embodied unlimited power restrained only by unlimited humility, not retaliating against those who struck and spit upon Him but instead asking for their forgiveness, I will not retaliate against those who seek to wound me.
Because You came to serve, I choose to serve You. In Your power, oh Lord, I will have peace in the midst of trial because You have overcome the world.
Because You gave Yourself for me, may I give myself altogether to You and to others, not holding back nor serving myself but only serving others as You lead me in the way of peace.
Thank You, Father God, for the unfathomable gift of Jesus, our Savior. Amen.
And the angel said to them, "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.
When I look upon a manger scene, I see my Sovereign Lord lying in an animal's feeding trough, choosing not to wield His authority against humanity but to lay it aside and rescue us. I see an innocence that was never spoiled but instead was honed until it was sharp enough to pierce my heart of stone; an Innocence that threw Himself between me and the slayer's knife, covering me in His spilled blood and hiding me from death.
When I look upon a manger scene, I see reckless love, unknowable anguish, and keen and unambiguous passion. I see a solemn and ever-mounting joy unleashed; the Living Water inundating a path impossibly narrow and sweeping all who walk it along into a life of unrelenting wonder and indescribable peace.
I pray that you will accept His gift this year. Merry Christmas!