Sunday, December 25, 2011

Taking Back Christmas: Grace

Every story in our Bible points to Jesus, and Jesus brought grace.  I cannot mention anything about Jesus without also thinking about grace.

Last year at this time, if you would have asked me if I understood grace, I am sure that I would have said yes, but I most certainly did not.  But God was bringing about in me an awakening to the truth of grace.

Grace is unmerited favor with God.  It is His choosing of individuals simply because He chose them.  Not because they obeyed the rules or because they were good enough or tried hard enough.  Grace is explosive, out of the box, scandalous, and completely risky.

God became a man, stepped into our world, and suffered death on a cross.  All because He so loved every single person he ever made or created so much that He wanted to make a way for humanity to know Him.  Know as in a deeply intimate way.  He demonstrated His love for us in that while we were still sinners He suffered death (Ro 5:8).  He took a risk on humanity even though all of us would not chose to love Him in return for the love He offers.

The thing about grace is that it offers freedom.  When understood, it gives an amazing awareness to your sin all the while setting free.  However, I imagine that most of us will never totally grasp the concept of grace.

People are always making rules, rules that are meant to make it easier to experience God's grace, but those rules just make it harder to understand grace.  Some say we should teach our kids about Santa.  Some say we should not.  Some think Christmas trees are evil; some do not.  The truth is Christmas is rooted in pagan traditions.  Somewhere, some perhaps well-meaning group of people decided to merge the pagan celebration of winter solstice with their own Christian beliefs and began celebrating Jesus's birth at the same time.  Some say Jesus wasn't even born in December but in September.  So what should we do?  Does our celebration of Christ interwoven with pagan symbols such as the Christmas tree, mistletoe, and Santa Claus betlittle or degrade Christ?

I believe the answer because of God's grace is no.  In 1 Cor 8, Paul addresses a similar manner, and he says that we are free to eat food sacrificed to idols if we so desire, unless in doing so, we are a stumbling block to a weaker brother.  Romans 14-15 is also a passage important to this conversation.  I believe in this instance Christmas trees are like meat formally sacrificed to idols.  They have pagan roots, but are generally accepted by Christians as a fun way to decorate and celebrate Christmas.  And we are given freedom to do so in grace.

The Holy Spirit will lead us to the truth for us in the gray areas. What the Holy Spirit convicts me to do in certain situations, He may not convict you to do in your own situation. 

The truth of the matter is that people who don't understand grace often have much to say about others sin.  They see situations only as their rules dictate and have very little understanding of others heart conditions.  Grace gives you eyes to see and ears to hear and understand.  It doesn't allow you to get past your own sin without responding in gratitude and extending at least a portion or measure of the grace received.  Grace is gentle and speaks truthfully and lovingly.  It allows you to be you with no pressure of following all of the rules.

This year, the gift of grace is the greatest one I've received.

And I pray for you this:

"And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work
2 Corinthians 9:8

1 comment:

  1. Amen!!

    Here's one of my favorite passages because so many people are mixed up about what freedom grace brings; how scruples (gray areas) figure into our lives; how Spiritual Gifts, callings, and tasks can differ; what our responsibility is to God; and what our responsibilities to others are. This verse encapsulates it all:

    Titus 2:11-15

    New American Standard Bible (NASB)

    11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, 12 instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, 14 who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.

    15 These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you.


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