Mercy in a Manger

One morning last week I was driving to the office, happily listening to Christmas carols. I pulled up to a neighborhood stop sign, slowed down, and did a quick look-pause. Nothing was coming, so I rolled on through. Just as I glided into the intersection, my eyes locked onto the police officer tucked away in hiding.

Suddenly, that squad car lit-up like a Christmas tree and took pursuit. I found a safe place to pull over and our conversation went something like this:

Officer with gun (holstered):“You went through that stop sign. Why did you do that?”

Me, humble of heart: “Yes, I did. I didn’t have a reason. I shouldn’t have done that. I am so sorry. Will you give me mercy instead of a ticket?”

Officer: “What?!”

Me, to the slow of hearing: “Will you give me mercy instead of giving me a ticket?”

There have been a few times in my life that I’ve been stopped for traffic violations. However, I have nearly always gotten the full brunt of the law. Busted. A ticket. A fine. One time, I even had to go to court, because it seems that having an expired copy of a current insurance is counted as no insurance.

Finally, after what seemed like way too long, the officer returned. I searched his face for a smile. There was none. Is there some unwritten law that they aren’t supposed to smile?

Then, the news:“I’m not going to give you a ticket, just a warning.”

Just a warning! How glorious is that? Wait…is that the hallelujah chorus in the background? In theological terms, the officer was saying the equivalent of, “Go and sin no more.”

Oh the freedom! The joy! No ticket. No fine. No court appearance. Just m-e-r-c-y!

Mercy is the gift that love wrapped up for Christmas. The conversation goes something like this:

God: “You did what?”

Us: “I lied. I stole. I cheated…. Actually God, there’s more, a lot more. It’s a pretty long list. Correction, it’s an ugly, long list…. Can I have mercy?”

God: “Bam! YOU get mercy. You GET mercy. You get MERCY.”

Sounds way too good to be true. But it is true, and that’s good news.

The story of Christmas is God hiding out not as a policeman, but as a little child–mercy in a manger. It’s the light of the world pursuing us in our most renegade state. It’s the story of love declaring that mercy triumphs over justice!

Next time you and I roll up to a stop sign, let’s come to a full stop and look both ways. Let’s think about all the times we’ve blown through God’s stop signs. It’s an ugly, long, list. Then, let’s remember that in Christ, God is not holding that list against us.

This Christmas, let’s celebrate and share the story of mercy in a manger, Who grew up to become mercy on a cross, Who rose to be mercy for you and me. Mercy is spelled J-E-S-U-S. He is the only One who can and will gladly save us from our ugly, long list.

Cue the Hallelujah chorus!

Picture of Nancy Grisham

Nancy Grisham

Nancy Grisham (@nancygrisham) is the author of Thriving: Trusting God for Life to the Fullest. She has been on faculty at Wheaton College, served in the Billy Graham Center, and has been the evangelism pastor in a church of 6,500. Nancy speaks on knowing God and making Him known, through the ministry of Livin’ Ignited. She lives in Colorado, where she enjoys a career in real estate.