Monday, November 30, 2015

The Gift of GRACE

One of the great paradoxes of Christmas is the conflicting messages presented by the two cultural and biblical characters most commonly celebrated during this festive season.

Culturally, we celebrate a jolly old man named Santa Claus who is “making a list and checking it twice” because he’s “gonna find out who's naughty and nice.”  

Culturally, this means the Christmas message we tell our children is that their gifts are dependent upon whether or not they are good enough.

Yet, in contrast…

Biblically, we celebrate a man named Jesus Christ through whom God “shows the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us…for it is by grace [we] have been saved, through faith – and this is not from [ourselves], it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.”

Biblically, this means the Christmas message is all about the gift of Jesus who is “good news of great joy that will be for ALL the people” irrespective of whether or not they are ‘naughty or nice.’

In fact, the entire Christmas story, from a biblical perspective, is a demonstration of God’s extraordinary grace that is so far removed from a cultural image of Christmas that has been wrapped up in colourful paper and tinsel.  The Christmas story is about a gift of grace that was unwrapped when Jesus "made his dwelling among us...full of grace and truth."

The Gift of Christmas was a descendant from an adulterous relationship…that’s a gift of GRACE.
The Gift of Christmas was presented through an unmarried woman…that’s a gift of GRACE.
The Gift of Christmas was rescued from the hands of a tyrant…that’s a gift of GRACE.
The Gift of Christmas was raised as a refugee in a foreign land…that’s a gift of GRACE.
The Gift of Christmas was rejected and despised by His own people…that’s a gift of GRACE.
The Gift of Christmas died a criminal’s death…that’s a gift of GRACE.

The circumstances of Jesus birth, life and death are a grace saturated environment!

Song writer and author Geoff Bullock summarises this grace saturated environment well in his book ‘Hands of Grace’:

“If Christ owned the rejection of a teenage pregnancy, if Christ owned the suspicion of a Jewish country town, if Christ had to be born out of town, out of the way, out the back, then we have no other choice than to acknowledge that God does not place his favour on those who look like they deserve it.  God, by the choice of the conditions of his Son's birth, shows us that he does not judge the book by its cover…We have a saviour who knows the plight of the homeless, rejected, misunderstood misfits that the world wishes would just go away.” (Bullock, Hands of Grace, 60-61)

The gift of GRACE is a gift that keeps on giving beyond the Christmas story creating a grace saturated environment for ALL people for ALL time that is not dependent upon whether we are naughty or nice but upon God's unmerited favour!  That's a gift of GRACE!!

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