-Max Lucado From Cosmic Christmas
Just the sound of my Kings voice stirred my heart. I left my post at the entryway and stepped into the throne room. To my left was the desk on which sat the Book of Life. Ahead of me was the throne of Almighty God. I entered the circle of unceasing light, folded my wings before me to cover my face, and knelt before Him. "Yes, my Lord?"
"You have served the kingdom well. You are a noble messenger. Never have you flinched in duty. Never have you flagged in zeal" I bowed my head, basking in the words. "Whatever You ask, Ill do a thousand times over, my King," I promised.
"Of that I have no doubt, dear messenger." His voice assumed a solemnity Id never heard Him use. "But your greatest work lies ahead of you. Your next assignment is to carry a gift to Earth. Behold."
I lifted my eyes to see a necklace, a clear vial on a golden chain dangling from His extended hand.
My Father spoke earnestly, "Though empty this vial will soon contain My greatest gift. Place it around your neck."
I was about to take it when a raspy voice interrupted me. "And what treasure will You send to Earth this time?"
My back stiffened at the irreverent tone, and my stomach turned at the sudden stench. Such foul odor could only come from one being. I drew my sword and turned to do battle with Lucifer. The Fathers hand on my shoulder stopped me.
"Worry not, Gabriel. He will do no harm."
I stepped back and stared at Gods enemy. He was completely covered. A black cassock hung over his skeletal frame, hiding his body and arms and hooding his face. The feet, protruding beneath the robe, were thrice-toed and clawed. The skin on his bands was that of a snake. Talons extended from his fingers. He pulled his cape further over his face as a shield against the Light, but the brightness still pained him. Seeking relief, he turned toward me. I caught a glimpse of a skullish face within the cowl.
"What are you staring at, Gabriel?" he sneered. "Are you that glad to see me?"
I had no words for this fallen angel. Both what I saw and what I remembered left me speechless. I remembered him before the Rebellion: Poised proudly at the vanguard of our force, wings wide, holding forth a radiant sword, he had inspired us to do the same. Who could refuse him? The sight of his velvet hair and coal-black eyes had far outstripped the beauty of any celestial being.
Any being, of course, except our Creator. No one compared Lucifer to Godexcept Lucifer. How he came to think he was worthy of the same worship as God, only God knows. All I knew was that I had not seen Satan since the Rebellion. And what I now saw repulsed me.
I searched for just a hint of his former splendor but saw none.
"Your news must be urgent," spat Satan to God, still unable to bear the Light.
My Fathers response was a pronouncement. "The time has come for the second gift."
The frame beneath the cape bounced stiffly as Lucifer chuckled. "The second gift, eh? 1 hope it works better than the first."
"Youre disappointed with the first?" asked the Father.
"Oh, quite the contrary; Ive delighted in it." Lifting a bony finger, he spelled a word in the air: C-H-O-I-C-E.
"You gave Adam his choice," Satan scoffed. "And what a choice he made He chose me. Ever since the fruit was plucked from the tree in the Garden, Ive held Your children captive. They fell. Fast. Hard. They are mine. You have failed. Heh-heh-heh."
"You speak so confidently," replied the Father, astounding me with His patience.
Lucifer stepped forward, his cloak dragging behind him. "Of course! I thwart everything You do! You soften hearts, I harden them. You teach truth, I shadow it. You offer joy, I steal it."
He pivoted and paraded around the room, boasting of his deeds. "The betrayal of Joseph by his brothersI did that. Moses banished to the desert after killing the EgyptianI did that. David watching Bathsheba bathethat was me. You must admit, my work has been crafty"
Crafty? Perhaps. But effective? No. I know what you will do even before you do it. I used the betrayal of Joseph to deliver My people from famine. Your banishment of Moses became his wilderness training. And yes, David did commit adultery with Bathshebabut he repented of his sin! And thousands have been inspired by his example and found what he foundunending grace. Your deceptions have only served as platforms for My mercy You are still My servant, Satan. When will you learn? Your feeble attempts to disturb My work only enable My work. Every act you have intended for evil, I have used for good."
Satan began to growla throaty guttural, angry growl. Softly at first, then louder, until the room was filled with a roar that must have quaked the foundations of hell.
But the King was not bothered. "Feeling ill?"
Lucifer lurked around the room, breathing loudly, searching for words to say and a shadow from which to say them. He finally found the words but never the shadow "Show me, 0 King of Light, show me one person on the Earth who always does right and obeys your will."
Dare you ask? You know there need be only one perfect one, only one sinless one to die for all the others."
"I know Your plansand You have failed! No Messiah will come from Your people. There is none who is sinless. Not one." He turned his back to the desk and began naming the children. "Not Moses. Not Abraham. Not Lot. Not Rebekah. Not Elijah..."
The Father stood up from His throne, releasing a wave of holy Light so intense that Lucifer staggered backward and fell. "Those are My children you mock," Gods voice boomed. "You think you know much, fallen angel, but you know so little. Your mind dwells in the valley of self. Your eyes see no farther than your own needs."
The King walked over and reached for the book. He turned it toward Lucifer and commanded, "Come, Deceiver, read the name of the One who will call your bluff. Read the name of the One who will storm your gates."
Satan rose slowly off his haunches. Like a wary wolf, he walked a wide circle toward the desk until he stood before the volume and read the word:
"Immanuel?" he muttered to himself, then spoke in a tone of disbelief. "God with us?" For the first time the hooded head turned squarely toward the face of the Father. "No. Not even You would do that. Not even You would go so far."
"Youve never believed Me, Satan."
"But Immanuel! The plan is bizarre! You dont know what its like on Earth! You dont know how dark Ive made it. Its putrid. Its evil. Its..."
"It is Mine," proclaimed the King. "And I will reclaim what is Mine. I will become flesh. I will feel what My creatures feel. I will see what they see."
"But what of their sin?"
"I will bring mercy."
"What of their death?"
"I will give life."
Satan stood speechless.
God spoke, "I love My children. Love does not take away the beloveds freedom. But love takes away fear. And lmrnanuel will leave behind a tribe of fearless children. They will not fear you or your hell."
Satan stepped back at the thought. His retort was childish. "Th-they will too!"
"I will take away all sin. I will take away death. Without sin and with out death, you have no power."
Around and around in a circle Satan paced, clenching and unclenching his wiry fingers. When he finally stopped, he asked a question that even I was thinking. Why? Why would You do this?"
The Fathers voice was deep and soft. "Because I love them."
The two stood facing each other. Neither spoke. The extremes of the universe were before me. God robed in Light, each thread glowing. Satan canopied in evil, the very fabric of his robe seeming to crawl. Peace con trasting panic. Wisdom confronting foolishness. One able to rescue, the other anxious to condemn.
I have reflected much on what happened next. Though I have relived the moment countless times, Im as stunned as I was at the first. Never in my wildest thoughts did I think my king would do what He did. Had He demanded Satans departure, who would have questioned? Had He taken Satans life, who would have grieved? Had He called me to attack, I would have been willing. But God did none of these.
From the circle of Light came His extended hand. From His throne came an honest invitation. "Will you surrender? Will you return to me?"
I do not know the thoughts of Satan. But I believe that for a fleeting second the evil heart softened. The head cocked slightly, as if amazed that such an offer would be made. But then it yanked itself erect. "Where will we battle?" he challenged.
The Father sighed at the dark angels resistance. "On a hill called Calvary."
"If you make it that far." Satan smirked, spinning and marching out the entryway, and he soared into the heavenlies.
The Father stood motionless for a moment, then turned back to the book. Opening to the final chapter, He slowly read words I had never heard. No sentences. Just words. Saying each, then pausing: JESUS...NAIL...CROSS...TOMB...LIFE.
He motioned toward me, and I responded, kneeling again before Him. Handing me the necklace, he explained, "This vial will contain the essence of Myself; a Seed to be placed in the womb of a young girl. Her name is Mary. She lives among My chosen people. The fruit of the Seed is the Son of God. Take it to her."
"But how will I know her?" I asked.
"Dont worry You will."
I could not comprehend Gods plan, but my understanding was not essential. My obedience was. I lowered my head, and He draped the chain around my neck Amazingly, the vial was no longer empty. It glowed with Light.
"Jesus. Tell her to call My Son Jesus."