Friday, December 16, 2011

A Christmas Case for Grace

Grace of God -(n) (Christian theology) the free and unmerited favor or beneficence of God; "God's grace is manifested in the salvation of sinners"; "there but for the grace of God go I..."

You hear the word bandied about all the time. Grace. It is a pretty popular word in the Christian vernacular. I've talked about it and sang about it all of my life but never really fully embraced the word or it's meaning until a few years ago. Looking back on my life now, I see grace not as a noun but as an active verb. A very present and absolutely incredible outpouring of God's perfect love at exactly the right time, almost always when I had nothing left to hang on to. Let me explain...

By now, everyone knows that my childhood was less than ideal. Join the club, right? Well, like a lot of other children in difficult family situations, fear was an oppressive and constant occupant of my thought life. I was always on alert for the winds of unrest to begin brewing and for the inevitable storms that almost always followed. Unfortunately, as a young adult, I began experiencing tempests of my own creation. History repeating itself, or something like that. I was a maker of messes in my own life and in the lives of others. Not something I'm particularly proud of. But, God, being God, had always had other plans for me. I was saved by grace. Again and again.

I didn't deserve it. None of us do. We pray for God to perform miracles and healing and to...well...perform. We go to Him in prayer with the words 'I want' or 'I need'. As if giving us life, a beautiful planet to sustain us and the ability to love one another were not enough. We want and need more. Much more. And He gives of Himself...endlessly pouring out more and more. Again...grace.

How does all of this relate to Christmas? Let me present my case...
When I was around eight or nine years old I truly believed that my mother hated me. Might have had something to do with the fact that she told me a moment of irrational, alcoholic anger...and she apologized later...but once those words are expelled it is nearly impossible to remove them from your mind. I felt hopeless and unloved a lot in those days. It was almost Christmas and one of my favorite pastimes was looking under the tree, counting my presents and shaking them, trying to figure out what was inside. That year? Nothing. Nada. It seemed to reinforce the fact that I was not loved or even thought of. And then Christmas finally arrived and after most of everyone's gifts were opened my mom got up and left the room. She returned, smiling mischievously, with a huge gift wrapped box. To my delight and amazement it was for me and inside were what seemed to be endless, individually wrapped presents my mother had selected just for me. As I opened each gift, each more thoughtful than the next, I had a revelation and I began to feel the love flowing back into me. I realized that day that though I sometimes felt broken and lost and my mom had her own issues and limitations, she truly loved me as best as she could. I know in my spirit that God spoke into my mother's heart by His grace and helped her to show her love for me in such a way that no matter how bad things got between us later, I never doubted her love for me again. Only God would know how important that would be to me as time passed and the stormy years appeared on the horizon. That's what is so beautiful about grace. It is applied as a balm to the past, a blessing in the present time or even as a buffer for future events as God sees the need. I love Him so much for that!

The other story involves our struggle with infertility. Every Christmas, for several years, I prayed that God would send us a Christmas miracle (I want, I need) and that we would have the baby we were dreaming of. Every year that passed I felt more resolved to pray harder and believe bigger. That is the grace of God in action. There is no other way to describe the feeling of certainty during very trying times that by faith, through God's grace, we would have the family we wanted so much. I just knew it would happen and never gave up hope. After seven years of heartbreak and loss, fertility treatment, a succession of incredible mini-miracles and a move across the country, our baby Patrick was born on December 13th just in time for Christmas. God's grace was there to see us through. Our marriage and relationship was strengthened through the process, and two and a half years later we welcomed beautiful, healthy twin babies into our family. An amazing miracle indeed. Only God could have pulled off something like that!
To read the full story, click here:

The most obvious story of Christmas grace is, of course, the original one. He gave His only son as a sacrifice to atone for the sins and transgressions of a fallen world. He  knew what the price would be before the foundations of the world but He was willing to pay it. He decided we were worth it. How is that for amazing? When there was nothing left to hang on to but fear, and the stormy mess created by sin and disobedience had left irreparable damage in its wake. When there was only an enduring desire for a love that was broken and lost. He saved the world with a gift of amazing grace that will never be surpassed. A baby that arrived just in time for Christmas. For God so loved the world that we once were lost but now are found. We were bound but now we're free. Jesus lives, He loves and He reigns, hallelujah!
I rest my case.

Merry Christmas,