For my children (and for me!), Christmas morning heralded the receiving of presents. Gorgeously wrapped presents under the tree so quickly unwrapped and the contents displayed. The morning was filled with excited oohs and aaahs and definitely the odd shriek or two. It is in this sharing of gifts that we are encouraged to remember the greatest gift of all – Jesus.
On that first Christmas morning, all those many years ago, Christmas heralded a gift, that for a time most of the world was oblivious to – grace. That first Christmas was the dawn of grace – God’s grace. And while it would take a further 33 years to outwork with Jesus’ life on earth and His crucifixion, death and resurrection, it had begun with His birth.
Grace – the unmerited favour of God. Undeserved and unearned. Through Jesus we receive God’s greatest act of grace – salvation and from it eternal life. How amazing, how wonderful. And once again I find myself turning to the words of a song to communicate the wonder of this gift of grace.
That gives what I don’t deserve
Gives me what Christ has earned
And lets me go free
That gives me the time to change
Washes away the stain
That once covered me
And all that I have
I lay at the feet
Of the Wonderful Saviour who loves me
Wonderful Grace, made possible by the birth of a precious baby – Son of God.
It was time for the boys to tidy their bedrooms. And surprisingly quickly, my 6 year olds’ room was transformed into a tidy oasis. Everything off the floor, bed made. I was very happy. That is until closer inspection I realised that the toys on the floor had been conveniently shoved under the bed. Dirty laundry was hidden down beside his chest of drawers. The 5 extra steps needed to reach the laundry hamper, apparently 5 steps too many.
Like mother, like son. (It has been said!) I was rather messy as a child too and was known to also use the space beneath my bed as “storage”. My son was well and truly busted (just as I had been as a child!) His room looked tidy on the surface but beneath it was a different story.
We can be the same. We can look picture perfect to those around us. We can look like we have our lives in complete control. But beneath the surface we can have feelings of inadequacy, guilt or shame and condemnation. We can be battling insecurity, fear, doubt. As much as my son’s room needed a bit of a spring clean, our internal worlds need the same regular attention. The more that we sort out our internal reality, the more that God can move in our lives and we are transformed into the likeness of Christ.
I helped my son tidy up what was under his bed, moved his bed to make it easier (yes there was that much stuff!) and vacuumed his room. When we decide to give our souls a little spring clean, God is there with us. There to heal our pain, there with grace, healing, hope and strength.
Spring cleaning can seem a bit of faff (my boys certainly thought so), but they loved their tidied rooms and rediscovering some favourite toys that were lost beneath the bed…
Today, I received a phone call from a bank telling me that I was preapproved for a loan (and quite a substantial loan at that!). I didn’t have to apply or jump through hoops to secure it – it was all preapproved and the money was ready to be given to me. Fortunately for my husband’s sake I did decline the offer (but yes, my mind did spend a couple of minutes thinking of what a shopping spree I could have!). After I hung up the phone, the word “Preapproved” echoed in my mind.
Over the course of my life I have applied for credit cards and mortgages, applied just to open a bank account to put money in! All of these take forms (and forms and forms!) and checks and balances, proof of income and address, signatures and signatures not to mention time! Yet here I was being offered a loan without all that red tape.
Preapproved! I’ve decided it’s pretty awesome! Then I realised that my whole life has been preapproved! And preapproved by God! Jesus went to the Cross and took upon Himself my sin and shame and then died for me, so that in God’s eyes I would be preapproved! In God’s eyes there would be no black marks against my name to cause Him to turn away from me. I had all the credentials I needed for salvation before I was even born. Just as I am, I am accepted and loved by God.
And as with the loan I was offered today, it took just a simple yes from me to Jesus to make use of my preapproval and walk into the fullness and blessings of the life that He had prepared for me. But unlike the loan that would eventually have to be paid back, by grace I don’t owe God anything, (even though I owe Him everything!). There’s no fine print or hidden clauses when it comes to salvation, for it is by grace that we are saved.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
“Even before He made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in His eyes.” (Ephesians 1:4)
The other day, things were just a bit tough in my 3 year olds’ world. From the pyjamas selected for him, to the lego pieces not going together correctly, to the choice of dinner. Everything was just too much for him and was resulting in tears – lots of tears. But as his mum, I knew his back story. I knew that the day hadn’t been an ordinary day – it had started early and involved a birthday party. I knew that my little chap was tired. I knew that the tears of frustration were actually tears of tiredness. And I knew that a reassuring cuddle (followed by an early night!) was all that was needed to right everything in his world.
In life though, we don’t always have the benefit or privilege of knowing people’s back story, of knowing how their day or their life is working out. We don’t always know what has precipitated the driving that cut us off or the rude and grumpy response to us.
We have a rule in our household. No one is allowed to be rude or dismissive of telemarketers when they call. And yes, while the timing can be exceedingly annoying and I really don’t need to be asked if I want a free valuation of our home or a ventaliation system installed, no one is allowed to be rude. Why? Because I know they all have a back story. I don’t know what the back story is, but I have sometimes thought that maybe they’re a student working these inconvenient hours to pay for their education. Maybe it’s a mum working an extra job to afford a better life for her children. Or maybe it’s someone’s first job and they are passionate about sales and people! I just know that whoever is at the other end of the phone – they have a story and so I choose grace.
Grace to not be another grumpy, annoyed person in maybe a string of them. Grace to be part of the good of their day (or even the inconsequential) and not the bad.
We need to show grace and compassion to those around us. To look beyond how someone’s actions are impacting us and to know that we don’t see the whole picture. We don’t see the moments before – the bad news, disappointment they’ve received, the hurt they’ve just encountered. We don’t know what they are going through.
Jesus walked this earth with compassion. He looked beyond and saw people’s back story and extended grace and hope. From the woman caught in adultery to the Samaritan woman, to Zacchaeus up a tree. He looked to see, really see. And they all had an encounter with God.