Recapture the wonder of grace.
Twinkling lights on the tree, sounds of joyful Christmas music, and the aroma of sugar cookies baking in the oven create a calm atmosphere in the home during December.
We yearn for this kind of serenity, but all too often, the reality of life is the opposite. The more common scenario is a harried schedule of school and church activities, frantic buying and wrapping gifts, spending more money than anticipated, and generally feeling overwhelmed with the expectations and details of Christmas. We run out of time and energy; we wonder how we will get everything done.
Children reflect the wonder of the season in their eyes, amazed at the sights, sounds, and stories of the holiday. We get older and the routines of the season become work. We are responsible for making Christmas happen for our families, for making the celebration memorable.
If we’re not careful, somewhere in between the amazement of a child and the work of pulling it off as an adult, a sad thing happens.
We lose the wonder of the season.
God revealed His grace to hurting, hopeless people through His greatest gift—a helpless baby named Jesus.
The holy, all-knowing God of the universe sought a relationship with us, and became one of us. God masterminded the plan for our redemption, bringing world events and the fulfillment of prophecies together at the right time in history.
Jesus birth was wrapped in history. God went to great lengths to enter our history and to identify with us through His Incarnation. Rome had conquered much of the known world, and enforce what is known as the Pax Romana, or Roman peace. It was marked by unprecedented peace, prosperity and safe travel. God used the excellent roads of the Roman empire for Mary and Joseph to travel to Bethlehem to register for the census.
Another unique feature of this era was that a common trade language was used. God used the everyday dialect of the koiné Greek language so people could pass on the story of faith throughout the ancient world.
Jesus came wrapped in prophecy.
More than three hundred Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled at the birth of Jesus. One example that shows the continuity between the Old and New Testaments is the prophecy in Isaiah 7:14
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: the virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14
It is shown in its fulfillment is in Mathew 1:22-23.
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel,’ (which means ‘God with us’).
What Isaiah prophesied in the eighth century BC, Matthew declares as fulfilled in the birth of Jesus of Nazareth.
Jesus also came wrapped in our humanity. When we hold a newborn baby, we are touched by the gentleness of new life. Even a heart hardened by the storms of life softens when holding a newborn. God came as a baby, to soften our calloused hearts to receive a new and transformed life that would be offered to us in the now incarnate Jesus.
The helpless, dependent infant bore the name “God with us.” Though all stages of our lives, Jesus is still Emmanuel, God with us. He is with us when we are lonely or scared, or in the valley of the shadow of death. Emmanuel is also there when we celebrate joys.
God knew the world needed the touch of His grace. He orchestrated history, prophecy, and the sharing of our humanity to bring us the gift of redemption.
The revelation of God appearing as a baby is stated in Galatians 4:4-5a.
“But when the set time had fully come” — God’s perfect timing in history
“God sent his Son” — Jesus is divine
“born of a woman” — Jesus was human
“born under the law” — Jesus was born into our world, with our restrictions
“to redeem those under the law” — His own purpose.
All of this leads to the greater wonder of the grace of the Incarnation, how God entered the world as a baby — living on earth and breathing our air — for the purpose of our redemption. This child of grace brings the gift of eternal life. Though undeserved, all we need to do is accept this gift of redemption by faith. No work is required on our behalf to earn this saving relationship with God.
When we receive the touch of God’s grace, our lives are transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit. Too often we lose sight of the wonder of transformation during the Christmas because of the seasonal demands.
In the midst of the craziness of Christmas preparation, we can allow God to renew our hearts.
The wonder of grace and Christmas transformation is illustrated in A Charlie Brown Christmas.
In the Christmas pageant preparation, Charlie Brown is given the task of choosing the tree. He selects the scrawniest one and is chastised by his friend Lucy for such a poor choice. Charlie Brown identified with the lowly tree. In the end, grace is shown when the children decorate and transform it into a beautiful Christmas tree.
God sees us in a similar manner. We come to Him plain and unlovable, but we are made beautiful by His grace. In the midst of our busyness, God comes to us right where we are. Through the impact of grace, God appeared as a baby who would become our Savior.
Only God could have masterminded the world events so that Jesus would be born at the appointed time.
Let’s take time to recapture the wonder of grace at Christmas.
This content is from The Grace Impact, a thirty day devotional on God’s grace.