This Advent season, we are doing a series on the grace of Christmas. Grace isn't always the first thing we associate with Christmas. It's normal for us to consider peace, hope, joy, and love, but we sometimes forget about grace. But Christ -- God in the flesh -- was "full of grace and truth," and Christ Himself was and is the greatest demonstration of God's grace to us.
Words of grace
Toward the start of Jesus's earthly ministry, he sat down to teach in the synagogue out of a passage from Isaiah. He read this:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Then, he boldly proclaimed, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” Luke tells us that all who heard were amazed at his "gracious words." Christ's words of grace proclaimed God's acts of grace: to set captives free, heal the blind, enrich the poor, and release the oppressed. And Jesus claims that all these gracious acts are fulfilled in him.
Christ is the gift of grace. This gift isn't just something nice that we would like to have. This gift is essential. The poor, the imprisoned, the blind, and the oppressed are helpless, and without God's grace through Christ, we are too.
News of mega grace
In that favorite Christmas passage in Luke 2 when angels appear to the shepherds to announce Christ's birth, they say, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people." It would have been right for the shepherds to be "afraid." It must have been terrifying for them to encounter such strange heavenly beings, and they probably expected judgment. But instead, the angels brought news of "great joy." That word, "great" might be better translated "huge," or "enormous" or "mega." This isn't just extra-good news -- it's mega news! And that word "joy" has the same root as our word for "grace" -- a word that means "God leaning toward us." So, we could translate the angel's words as "good news of mega grace!"
Grace is God with us
What is this "mega grace?" It's the news that God is for us and with us. In Christ, we see that God is not some aloof overlord, waiting for us to mess up so he can punish us. In Christ, we see a God who humbles himself, who sprouts up like a spindly tree out of parched ground. We see a God who releases prisoners, heals the sick, and illuminates the eyes of the blind. Grace also means "to dwell or to abide," and in the incarnation, we witness God dwelling with man. God does not stay far off; instead, he graciously draws near -- as near as a baby inside of his mother's womb. In Christ, we see God with us, and in Advent, we remember the grace of that incarnation and look forward to the day when Christ will return to dwell with us forever.
Heralds of grace
Just as the angels proclaimed good news of great joy to the shepherds and Christ proclaimed the Lord's favor to those in the synagogue, so we ought to proclaim this good news of grace to a hurting world. We are the heralds of grace this advent season and every season.