As he looked out on the snow-covered horizon, he saw a solitary figure approaching in the distance. No, it wasn’t the Ghost of Christmas. It wasn’t jolly, old St. Nicholas. From the way the figure trudged through the snow, it was clear it was anything but jolly. In fact, it looked somewhat decrepit. Yet he recognized the person’s gait. Could it be, or were his eyes deceiving him? Yes, it really was . . . . His son had returned home.

Laying all dignity aside, the ecstatic father pulled up the skirt of his robe and ran through the snow towards his son. When he caught up to him, he fell on his neck and kissed him. The wayward son’s clothing reeked of alcohol mixed with dirt, sweat, and pig slop. His hair had grown long and ragged. The father saw these shameful effects of sin on his son; but his kind eyes saw beyond his son’s appearance to his penitent, broken countenance. His love penetrated through the rough exterior of the mess which stood before him and saw what his son would become. Though the steps of the son’s repentance were slow and protracted, the father’s swift steps of forgiveness more than compensated.

Every child of God at one time or another discovers the meaning of misery as a result of his or her sins; but like the prodigal, when we return, we learn the meaning of our Father’s mercy. We may question His love as we recoil from the pain we brought into our lives; but He wraps an arm around us and points to the cross, reminding us of the suffering His Son endured to redeem us and assuring us of His forgiveness. Christmas reminds us of the ultimate display of His love.

When I think of Christmas, I think of the journey Christ took from the cradle to the cross to show His love. I think of the Father’s mercy. I think of His forgiveness of my sins. This is why I celebrate this season. As you celebrate this special day, remember you have a Father who loves you. Consider all of the times He has extended His grace and forgiveness to you. Let your mind replay the manifold mercies He has shown you — and give Him thanks.

Devotional by Pastor Jim Scudder, Jr.