Perhaps there is no better summation …
of the Christmas story than Mary’s song of affirmation in Luke chapter 1. Life-altering and history-changing news issued by Gabriel and the reassurance of her cousin Elizabeth prompted this … “His mercy extends to those who fear him from generation to generation.”
One cannot even begin to become a vehicle of God’s mercy to others until they see it’s critical centrality in the story of God’s redemption of mankind . . and one cannot see the core role of mercy in the story of God’s redemption of mankind until they see themselves before ALL others in desperate need of that very same mercy.
Mary was such a soul as this.
Yes, she was amazed that she was chosen to carry Mercy incarnate in the form of the promised Messiah, but don’t miss this, she was most amazed that God chose her to be His. Immediately after arriving to visit with Elizabeth, she first and foremost exclaimed … “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”
One makes no such statement without a profound awareness of their limitations, brokenness and utter spiritual emptiness..
Mary “got” mercy because she had a right understanding of who she was as a person without the radical, redeeming and sustaining touch of God on every part of her life. She understood that everything she had was an undeserved gift – right down to each and every breath she took. She understood that she had created nothing, earned nothing and if was found counting on what she spiritually deserved . . would justly be compensated with death and forever separation from the Lord God.
So who comes to mind …
My guess is that Ray Lewis, one of the most impactful linebackers to ever play pro football (17 seasons with the Baltimore Ravens including 13 Pro Bowl and 10 All-Pro selections) was very likely not on your list. When you combine his ferocity on the field with his checkered past when it comes to failed marriages and entanglement in off-field violence, you might even conclude that Ray Lewis would be the LAST parson on earth to be an agent of God’s mercy.But God has worked and is working a miracle in the life of Ray Lewis and as a result has experienced a transformation of soul and life priorities much like that of James, the brother of Jesus, as we discussed in Part 1 of Becoming Christmas. Today, Lewis serves as a role model and mentor in the community to young people and athletes, and is more than willing to share his failed past and point others towards his life verse from Psalm 91 … “With long life I will satisfy him, and show him my salvation”.
Perhaps no one would have ever imagined that God would place Ray Lewis and the carnage attached to his heartbreaking absent-father childhood square in the path of one very empty and disillusioned Michael Phelps … but that is exactly what transpired in 2014 when … when suicide seemed to be the only way out for Phelps. Check this out …
The story of Ray Lewis and Michael Phelps . . and the story of Michael Phelps and Jesus Christ . . well, these stories are far from finished. Bit one thing is clear: Ray Lewis rightly understands his place and purpose in God’s kingdom. While he certainly could have written off and blown off Phelps and thought to himself “Why do I need to give any of my time to a dead-end train wreck soul like Michael Phelps?” . . instead, he seized his part in being a front line soldier on a mission of mercy where another’s life hung in the balance.
It is that same passion …
that drove Jesus to give up heaven and to come to us that first Christmas. It is that same priority that He reinforced in the story of The Good Samaritan. Jesus knows the default setting of our pride-saturated judgmental souls – He knows we are all by nature much more in sync with the disaffection and self-absorption of the Priest and the Levite. He knows that religion’s buffet will always provide a loophole allowing us to distance and disengage from those who are bruised, bloodied and broken . . which is why He never stopped short of the cross.
He had to become like the very lives He came to seek and save . . He had to come under the unyielding sentence of justice and wrath for without a sacrifice that satisfies all the demands of God’s holiness, mercy would no longer be mercy.
He didn’t abandon His mission – neither did Ray Lewis.
Like the Good Samaritan …
Mercy First “Sees” The Need
Michael Phelps was as he described “screaming for help” – in a world stricken with “busy” and “my plans”, Lewis didn’t tune out, he dialed in.
Mercy Is Moved in the Soul
Much like the Good Samaritan’s “heart went out” to a beaten and left for dead traveler, Lewis remembered what it was like in his own life when he had no hope without rescue – he identified with Phelps – he remembered where smothering selfish ambition got him and laid claim to the “wisdom of heaven” that has time to be considerate of others . . deeply. (James 3)
Mercy Takes Action . . In The Moment
“This is when we fight” wasn’t just Ray Lewis’ admonition to an empty Michael Phelps, it was his own battle cry . . a cry that demanded resources like a rehab center and a copy of “Purpose Driven Life” and perhaps most importantly, an open line of communication all get put into play NOW . . not later.
Michael Phelps’ life …
took a major pivot toward heaven because Ray Lewis invested in his best days while Phelps was smack in the middle of his worst days. Interestingly enough, the key verse that stood out to Phelps through the entire process (including the reading of “Purpose Driven Life”, was 2 Corinthians 5:18, “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.”
The void in Michael Phelps’ life encountered the light of heaven . . relationship began to swallow abandonment . . purpose began to trump paralysis.
Find All of the “Becoming Christmas”
Click On The Titles Below
Part 1 – “Becoming Christmas: Tidings of ..?”
Part 2 – “Becoming Christmas: The Mission of Mercy”
Part 3 – “Becoming Christmas: Unlocking Joy”
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