I remember the first time I read the words “His mercies are new every morning.” I was sitting in a bunk in New Orleans after the hurricane. I have never been so exhausted in my life. Not only was I carrying the grief of losing my own stuff, I was working with a crew cooking, cleaning and counseling police officers as they worked shifts in the struggling city. It was one of the darkest periods of my life. I remember sitting in my bunk at night, after having been up since 4 am, and just wanting to collapse. Instead of collapsing, though, I read the book of Lamentations. There was just a truckload of solace there from Jeremiah! He knew where I was and what I was feeling! He understood. And not only that, He was far enough ahead of me that He knew what I needed to hear next. I read “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness! “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in Him.”” These words jumped off the page at me. I was still tired but I felt clean. For the first time in days I felt like the weight of grief was bearable. The darkness didn’t leave and the sorrow didn’t fade but I felt like I could see the end of the tunnel. Jeremiah reminded me that the Lord was bringing the next day and with it came a whole new round of grace, mercy and possibility.
Aren’t you glad God doesn’t work like a grinder or a cutting torch? Aren’t you thankful He comes soft and slow like a winter snow? Nothing from the Lord in the story surrounding Jesus’ birth is harsh or ugly. Nothing is rushed or pushy. 400 years they’ve waited, He’s waited, for the perfect time for Jesus to be born. And like the opening to the most beautiful symphony, this child is announced, carried and born with grace. Softly the angels came. Slowly the months of pregnancy went by. Piece by piece the story was put together until that starry night when everything was right; when everything was ready. Into that quiet moment of perfection Jesus was born. When the world was at its darkest, the Light came.
Did you remember that there is only one other baby in Jesus’ birth story? His name is John. Why is he there? It certainly wasn’t to steal any of the spotlight. There was only one baby to announce that night to the shepherds. So why was John included? Jesus needed a herald. John was the one about whom it was prophesied “A voice crying out in the wilderness, “Prepare the way for the Lord!” That is a prophecy and is first written in Isaiah 40. The longer version says “Every valley shall be lifted up and every mountain and hill made low…and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed.” These words are talking about an exodus. Isaiah was written before the exile. Many of the Jews laughed at him saying “these things will never happen!” After they went to Babylon Isaiah became one of the favored books. But the prophet is talking about another exodus here. He’s not talking about coming home from Babylon. He’s telling the story of when God’s people will be lead out of the captivity of sin and into the favor of grace. Language like iniquity being pardoned and the glory of the Lord being revealed is pointing to Jesus. John took these words and announced them to the people of Israel and then wrote them as the introduction to Jesus in his book. “Prepare the way for the Lord!”
John has a way about him when it comes to Jesus. Legend says that as an old man John was let down into a boiling pot of oil to be killed. All the way down into the pot he was preaching the Gospel to his killers. Once he went under he pulled himself back up kept preaching! The Emperor was so shocked at the passion and boldness of this fiery preacher he ordered him pulled up and exiled to the island of Patmos. This man understood his job as a witness and proclaimer of the Light of Christ!
It seems John got to the place in his life where he became convinced Jesus was his only source for everything. His entire life revolved around knowing Jesus and making Him known. We we think the hardest part is not taking our eyes off Jesus. To John this was the easiest part! Jesus became the only way, the only truth and the only source of life for John.
I am convinced if we are going to make it through the dark night that is upon us right now we are going to have to learn how to live like John. We can’t buy, borrow, threaten or push our way out of this. If Jesus really is the only truth and truth really is the only way we can be free, we have to get to the place where our eyes are fixed on Him all of the time. He can’t be Plan B or just another alternative in a long list of different solutions. If we are going to taste freedom anytime soon we have to set aside any other means of rescue available to us and look to Jesus. The vaccine is a welcome addition to our world but it just tackles the virus. Jesus is the only workable solution for every other problem we face. Will you look to Him this Christmas or will you keep looking around you for rescue? The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in Him.” Jeremiah said it. I’m with him.