“For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.” (Luke 1:48b-50, ESV, emphasis mine)
As a volunteer at a pregnancy center near me, I recently helped at a special event for moms and their children, where they could bring their little ones to meet Santa and get a professional photo taken. Some of the children, wide-eyed and about to burst into tears, wouldn’t go near Santa.
But I was enthralled by the actions of one young mom. She tenderly soothed her fearful one-year-old son, holding him close and whispering in his ear, while slowly and patiently moving closer to Santa -over a span of almost an hour. Eventually her baby boy sat on her lap – next to Santa- and the photographer captured an adorable photo.
Such a special moment to behold. The beauty of a mother’s compassion.
And in just a few weeks I get to behold this outpouring of love and compassion with the birth of my first grandchild! I can hardly wait. God’s mercy from generation to generation.
But what is mercy?
Merriam-Webster dictionary defines mercy as:
compassion shown especially to an offender, or to one subject to one’s power
compassionate treatment of those in distress.
It seems like mercy is in short supply in the world today. I wonder if that’s why our hearts are moved by and drawn to the Christmas story, the baby born in a manger.
Perhaps celebrating Christmas is about remembering God’s mercy and compassion,
then, and now, toward us, his rebellious and struggling children.
In Luke Chapter 1, the story of two expectant mothers- Elizabeth and Mary- we read of God’s mercy five times. Mary sings of God’s mercy from generation to generation (vs.50,54). Elizabeth’s neighbors and relatives rejoice at the mercy of the Lord in giving her a son (vs.58). Zechariah prophecies over his infant son John, and proclaims the tender mercy of God toward his people (vs. 72,78).
But what I found to be really amazing is that the Hebrew word for God’s mercy and compassion- ra-cham, that is often used in the Old Testament, shares the same three letter root as the Hebrew word for womb- re-chem. (© Sarah E. Fisher and www.hebrewwordlessons.com, ).
Wow. When I ponder that, I am in awe of the depth and intimacy of God’s compassion extended to us. Jesus came to our world through Mary’s womb- deeply connected to us.
But is He still deeply connected, merciful, to us, now, in our corner of this world?
I love how A.W. Tozer describes God’s Mercy in The Knowledge of the Holy :
“Mercy is an attribute of God, an infinite and inexhaustible energy within the divine nature which disposes God to be actively compassionate” (p.156). He goes on to say, “It is human misery and sin that call forth the divine mercy.” (p.157) and “We must believe that God’s mercy is boundless, free and, through Jesus Christ our Lord, available to us now in our present situation.” (p.158)
The mercy of God is given to us, through Jesus Christ, for our salvation. But because His mercy is boundless, it is the same today as it was at Jesus’ birth!
Maybe you are suffering this Christmas - from a serious illness, in a broken relationship, or grieving a loss. I know many friends and family who are. And I remember Christmas seasons I too struggled deeply and felt far from God.
But God’s mercy, His active compassion, is for you – now, this moment.
Will you, will we, believe this and receive it? Our God is “the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction” (2 Corinthians 1: 3b-4a, ESV).
And when we receive mercy from God, He calls us to give to others. I believe that in receiving mercy, we are compelled and empowered to give it to others.
“But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:35-36, ESV)
This directive from Jesus is hard, and not something that comes easily for me. But I am praying this season for an overflow of His mercy to flow through me in difficult situations and relationships. Will you join me?
Merciful Father, remind of us your boundless gift of Mercy toward us, to comfort us and fill us to overflowing, so that we can give mercy, kindness, and compassion this Christmas to all, even our enemies. Amen