We may never fully grasp grace with our minds, but we must grasp grace with our hearts by receiving and responding to it. Grace is given freely, but we must choose to take hold of it. This isn't a one-time thing; though we can never lose God's saving grace once received, we may still lose sight of His daily grace, and therefore lose the experience of that grace. We must daily accept and live in God's grace for us.
Even long-time Christians may lose track of God's grace, focusing instead on their own good deeds and whether or not they "deserve" God's favor. We try to "add to" God's grace, or find confidence in our own good works instead of in grace. But the fact is, we've done nothing to earn God's favor, nor can we. In Christ, we've received every blessing, by God's free choice.
It was God's free choice and favor that singled-out Mary to be Christ's mother. Our Scripture reading this week came from Luke Chapter 1, when Mary is visited by Gabriel and told she will become the mother of Christ. Mary is described as "highly favored." Nowhere is Mary's good life or purity mentioned. Instead, God chooses to show Mary His grace out of His own fullness for His own reasons. And how does Mary respond? She says, “I am the Lord’s servant...May your word to me be fulfilled.” ( Luke 1:38)
As with Mary, our response to God's grace must be one of receptive humility and faith. Later, in Mary's story, her cousin Elizabeth tells her, "Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” (Luke 1:45) So what is keeping us from believing in God's grace in our lives? Some of us may be hanging on to shame or guilt. Others may cling to pride in their own abilities. Thank God that His grace keeps reaching out, no matter what tries to pull us away. When feeling overwhelmed by sin or the law or shame or guilt, we can run to Jesus, who carries all our burdens. Christ says, "Come unto me all you who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest."
In Mary's song of praise to God in Luke 1:52-53, she exclaims, "He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty." Let us remain hungry for God's grace in our lives, continually receiving it. God is always at work, and His supply of grace is endless.
We ended this week's message with a challenge to appreciate the gift of grace in our lives. As we learned last week, "grace" and "joy" come from the same root word. Let us take joy in our Savior. Let we who are "weary and heavy-laden" rest in Christ. Let us take time to pause, breathe, and receive Christ's grace.