Thursday, December 3, 2015

Grace - Advent 2015



We’ve entered the Season of Advent. Christmas trees are up, people are shopping. It’s the Season of Gifts.

But we know “the reason for the Season” -- that God gave his son to be born on earth, giving up Heavenly Glory for the humble confines of a manger in a corrupt, broken world.
Matthew and Luke have nice infancy narratives that tell the story of Christ’s birth -- reenacted each year in Christmas pageants in churches throughout the world.

But I’ve always liked John’s description:

John 1: 1-4
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all t hings were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

John goes on to say:

John 1:14-17
And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth…. of his fullness have all we received, and grace for grace.  For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.

Yes, GRACE came by Jesus Christ.

The Greek word for Grace is :

Χάρις (Charis)


Another use of “charis” was as thanks for favors bestowed; That’s why we “Say Grace.”

I saw a meme on the Internet the other day that really struck me. It said:
“Life is not fair. Neither is grace.”

Yes, luckily for us, Grace is not fair.

Christians believe that grace is “the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners.”

Yesterday, we were once again reminded of the world’s brokenness with the shootings in San Bernadino, CA. Not so very long ago, when President Obama addressed a hurting City of Charleston and nation after the church massacre there, he sang “Amazing Grace.”  Amazing Grace, How Sweet the Sound! That saved a wretch like me.

We sing other hymns about grace:

It was love that took my place

On the cross of Calvary

It was grace, redeeming grace

That paid my ransom full and free
Over sin, without, within,
I have the victory
Thro’ grace, marvelous grace
That lives in me.  
 ---    Lyrics and Music: C. Austin Miles

Or

Grace, grace, God’s grace,

Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;

Grace, grace, God’s grace,

Grace that is greater than all our sin! 
– Julia Johnston


Paul’s epistles are full of the concept of Grace –I like the way Clarence Jordan's translations of Paul’s letters closes:  “May the unmerited favor of our Lord Jesus Christ be with the spirit of each of you.” -- reminding us that Grace is not earned.

Ephesians 2: 8-9 (New International Version) 

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.

2 Corinthians 12:9
"But he [Jesus] said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." 

Literally translated – Christ is saying to Paul, Sufficient for you is the grace of me.

No matter what our shortcomings or weaknesses, Christ is sufficient for us. This is GRACE.
One of my favorite Christian writers and theologians is Frederick Buechner. Here’s what he says about grace.

"After centuries of handling and mishandling, most religious words have become so shopworn nobody's much interested anymore. Not so with grace, for some reason. Mysteriously, even derivatives like gracious and graceful still have some of the bloom left.
"Grace is something you can never get but can only be given. There's no way to earn it or deserve it or bring it about any more than you can deserve the taste of raspberries and cream or earn good looks or bring about your own birth.
"A good sleep is grace and so are good dreams. Most tears are grace. The smell of rain is grace. Somebody loving you is grace. Loving somebody is grace. Have you ever tried to love somebody?
"A crucial eccentricity of the Christian faith is the assertion that people are saved by grace. There's nothing you have to do. There's nothing you have to do. There's nothing you have to do.
"The grace of God means something like: 'Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are, because the party wouldn't have been complete without you. Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid. I am with you. Nothing can ever separate us. It's for you I created the universe. I love you.'
"There's only one catch. Like any other gift, the gift of grace can only be yours if you'll reach out and take it.
"Maybe being to reach out and take it is a gift too.”
As we begin the Advent Celebration and anticipate the celebration of the Birth of Christ into this world -- The Incarnation  -- we celebrate the ultimate Grace. 

Silent night, holy night,
Son of God, love’s pure light
Radiant beams from Thy holy face,
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth,

Jesus, Lord at Thy birth.