The other day I was hanging out with a few grands, and I asked them if they wanted to watch a movie. It’s Christmas so we had a lot of great choices. My granddaughter said, “Yes, but not before you tell us the story of God.” I knew what she meant because every Christmas I have the younger grands over to make cookies and ornaments. Before they come, I wrap up each piece of our manger scene, number them, then they open them in order while I tell them about how Jesus was born as a baby and laid in a manger. I tell it fast with lots of action to hold the attention of the two-year-olds who sometimes make it through most of the story.
Since my granddaughter is a little older, I added some details—smelly shepherds, an angry king, wise men lost in Jerusalem. When I finished, she said to me, “Nana, that wasn’t like a Christmas story.” And I knew what she meant. How does the story of God stack up against a feel-good Christmas movie? It’s miraculous, but it’s not Miracle on 34th Street. It’s a little too real, isn’t it? But that’s exactly how it was meant to be. Zechariah prophesied that Jesus would “shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death” (Luke 1:79 NIV). You can’t get more real than that. As my dad, Jack Miller, said, “The angel’s announcement of a Savior came to the real world where people live in real darkness.” (Saving Grace, December 23).
I don’t know about you, but that’s the world that I live in—a dark world shadowed by disease, death, broken relationships, war, loneliness, anxiety, stress, addiction, and other things that threaten to take our breath away. Like you I have friends who are grieving this Christmas, feeling keenly the loss of someone they love. I have friends in the hospital who don’t know what their future will be. I have friends who are estranged from family. I have friends who are facing surgery. I have friends who are living in the real world with real darkness who don’t know how they will get through this day, this week, this month, this year. I am in the same boat. Jesus came for all of us.
I will never forget the Christmas right before I became a Christian. I had been running from God for many years, but that year, everywhere I turned, I felt the presence of God. And I cried. I cried listening to Christmas music in the mall. I cried watching the children’s opera, Amahl and the Night Visitors. I cried every time I thought about how Jesus came to save sinners, because I had finally figured out that I was one. My world was dark, but the Light of the World was there with me. I had no choice but to invite him to make his home in me.
Zechariah’s prophecy doesn’t end with the shadow of death. It ends with peace. Jesus came to “guide our feet into the path of peace” (Luke 1:79 NIV). Jesus makes his home in us. We make our home in him. And he gives us the gift of peace. The peace of knowing our life is washed clean. The peace of knowing that no matter how we failed yesterday, every day his mercies are new. The peace of knowing that our hopes are all kept safe in heaven. The peace of knowing that our future is secure. The peace of knowing that he is near and will never leave or forsake us. The peace of knowing that he will guide us into his peace. This is the peace we bring with us as we live in our own particular darkness. And with the light of God’s love shining in our hearts, we bring his peace with us as we go to others whose lives are shadowed by death.
One day we will look back on our lives, and they will be tied up in a neat bow. All will be revealed, and we will be like Jesus. For now, it’s our privilege to live by faith in the story of God. The middle is hard and not that Christmassy. But at the end all God’s people will sing with the angels, and all sorrow and sadness and sighing will be swept away and replaced with glory, light, and love.
The gospel changes how we live each day. That’s the premise of Saving Grace and the legacy of Jack Miller’s ministry. These 366 gospel-saturated selections from Miller’s pioneering sermons offer a fresh exploration of the everyday life of faith. With topics like forgiveness, relationships, temptation, prayer, joy, and perseverance—this daily devotional will help readers to catch Miller’s hope-filled vision for living in light of the gospel.