Today’s Bible readings can be found here: Psalm 119:49-64 & Luke 1:57-80.

Luke 1:76-78a 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, through the tender mercy of God. (RSV)

            I’ve tried to be a Christian for forty-two years. When I first gave my heart to the Lord as a teenager, I thought that everything would get easier and my faith would grow stronger. As the decades have sped by, I realize that being a Christian is a daily struggle between doing what is right rather than what I want. Each day, I can choose to justify my sinful mistakes and selfish choices, or I can decide to repent of my wrong deeds and foolish notions. I wrestle with my conscience and fight with God, usually when I let my doubts and fears overshadow my faith and weaken my connection to Christ. Instead of enjoying my salvation, I allow my insecurities to rob me of my relationship with God; rather than experience the assurance of His love, I permit my worries to pick away at my Christian beliefs. So, each day, I need someone to guide me back to God; I look for a path to restore my peace of mind and salvation.

            As I read today’s Gospel passage about the birth of John the Baptist (Luke 1:57-80), I quickly realized that the answer to my struggle is plainly written there. When Zechariah prophesies about his newborn son, he says that John will become a herald of the Messiah by proclaiming a message of salvation to his people, ‘in the forgiveness of their sins through the tender mercies of God.’ In other words, John’s people will be restored to God’s favor and love through the gift of grace, which we now know was manifested in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

            So, what does this mean? Will our spiritual struggles end? Will things become easier for people of faith? I think the answer during our lifetime will depend on how much we really believe in grace. The true power of forgiveness does not lie in the fact that our mistakes are pardoned, but in the ultimate reality that our connection to God is eternally restored. With forgiveness, we can move on from the chains of our sinful past, enjoy what life has to offer in this present time, and look forward to the everlasting love of God in the future. And that, my friends, is salvation in a nutshell which we can experience both now and forevermore.

Point to ponder:  What am I looking for in my life? How can salvation from God bring that to me?

Prayer: Lord God, You fully understand our human frailties, fears, and failures. We often make mistakes and carry a lot of regrets. Encourage us to come to You for the gifts of forgiveness and grace. Restore us to Your peace and love through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Today’s image is one of John’s latest Communion drawings called “Mungo’s Mission.” If you would like to view a larger version, please click here.