The Word became flesh
and made his home among us.
We have seen his glory,
glory like that of a father’s only son,
full of grace and truth. – John 1:14
From his fullness we have all received grace upon grace;
as the Law was given through Moses,
so grace and truth came into being through Jesus Christ. – John 1:16-17
Today is the 2nd Sunday in Advent. Church at WFPC – and this is unusual for North Carolina in December – is snowed out. So instead of teaching my Sunday morning class I’ll post some of my thoughts here.
My word for this week is “Grace.” Last week I promised four alternate words to substitute for the traditional “Hope, Peace, Love & Joy” – not as synonyms but as complementary ideas. We started with Light (The Gift of Light and Life) and now it’s Grace.
Grace is Necessary for Peace:
Peace, I believe, is not possible outside of Grace. Grace, theologically, is understood as the free and unmerited favor of God. In other words, God extends this invitation, offering welcome and acceptance not because any one of us has earned it, or deserves it, but because God is Love.
When we understand the implications of Grace, then conflict necessarily lives outside the bounds of grace’s covering. It’s not that grace suggests that anything goes, or that behavior doesn’t matter, but more grace creates an atmosphere where enmity and judgment and exclusion and legalism lose all their power because we are all equal.
Equally forgiven, equally unworthy, equally home – home because of Jesus.
Grace invites us to sit at a round table, where there is no hierarchy. Grace is a banquet hall where there is no gate but at the door there is a deep pit where we must first drop our arguments, our weapons, our pride, our guilt, our superiority, our issues – the heavy garments of self and rightness that weigh us down. Then we are given other robes and we must enter clothed with humility. Grace not only welcomes but it expects us to welcome others too.
Grace May Not Cost Us Anything… but…
Grace may be defined as “free” but let us not misunderstand, the way for the Grace we experience was made clear at great cost.
We only begin to gather a real appreciation for what grace is once we extend it to others and bear some of the cost ourselves. So here’s a thought: maybe Grace is not only a gift that we can accept but a burden we can share?
Ultimately, of course, it is no burden at all to extend Grace. But – just like un-harnessing our weapons and the heavy clothing of our self-rightness at the door to the banquet – living in Grace as The Graceful can appear costly until we get the hang of it, until we understand the freedom of it all the way to our bones, all the way to our hearts and spirits and souls, all the way through to Jesus.
This is how I ramble when I am thinking out loud. My prayer is that this helps you on your journey to Bethlehem this year, on your path to the infant child in the manger, on your decision to accept the invitation to The Banquet.
Light and Grace – DEREK