"This was the oath he swore to our father Abraham: to set us free from the hand of our enemies, free to worship him without fear, holy and righteous in his sight, all the days of our life." – Lk. 1:74

Holy and righteous for all my days – that's a lot to live up to. At 18 with a wife and our first daughter, trying to hold everything together at minimum wage, I tried anyway and failed a lot. God had entrusted me with this new life and soon, two more. I spent the next 24 years somehow trying to prove my worthiness to Him. Predictably, that didn't turn out too well. Instead, I ended up with a list in my head of every time I failed, the things I didn't try hard enough on, and every time I wasn't good enough to be worthy of my family. Some nights I would even sit alone after everyone was in bed and cry as I looked at that list.

Until this year.

I had it all wrong, completely backwards, as I've come to understand this year and this Advent.

God didn't promise that He would help me become holy and righteous, or that I would be given the grace to, or that if I impressed God enough that would be my reward. God swore an oath that I will be holy in his sight and free to come to him without fear for all the days of my life. God took that promise so seriously that he sent his first born to die so that he would see my first born as a holy child of God! He wasn't judging and rejecting me. I was the one rejecting Him.

After 24 years, I'm finally accepting that God doesn't just love everyone else. God loves me too. This advent I'm worrying less about being holy and righteous and more about letting Him love me and help me to feel worthy of it. Bit by bit, I'm letting that list of mine fade away.

Here we are on Christmas Eve, getting ready to celebrate this tremendous promise to us. It's a wonderful night to ask ourselves:

Am a resisting allowing God's love into my life?
Is there anything for which God has forgiven me, but I haven't forgiven myself?

I pray that it's a day when we can all walk in without fear, filled with God's love, to proclaim with Zechariah: "Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; for he has come to his people and set them free!"

Marc Lehman