In this week’s New York Times OpEd section, Peter Wehner has written a piece called, “The Uncommon Power of Grace.” It’s a wonderful article – read it if you get the chance! Grace has been defined as “unmerited favor.” Wehner’s contention is that the unmerited favor of God arrived on Christmas in the form of Jesus and with it we are all blessed. In our best moments, we pass along the grace we have received. He writes, “…when we see grace in action – whether in acts of extravagant, indiscriminate love, in radical self-giving, or in showing equanimity in the face of death – it can move us unlike anything else.”
The babe in the manger is God’s grace given to us.
Most babies feel like grace – so vulnerable and beautiful – a wondrous gift who looks just like us but so much more fragile and perfect. I’m sure Jesus felt like grace to Mary and Joseph in those first few hours after his birth.
But there is more to this particular baby than meets the eye. Jesus will be the embodiment of God’s love and acceptance – Immanuel, God with us, God for us – to remind us that there is nothing that can separate us from God’s love. Jesus will be accused of spending too much time with rough people – with prostitutes and drunks, tax collectors and notorious sinners. His disciples will be accused of not being pious enough, of not following the religious codes religiously. If we listen closely we will realize that it is not our perfection, not our adherence to a set of beliefs or practices, that makes God’s love and grace available to us. It is God’s radical self-giving that makes grace available.
Jesus, as grace, is a giver of extravagant, indiscriminate love. Love that is bestowed, not because we deserve it, but simply because we are, because we exist. Jesus is the light of God’s presence, born into our world because we are so often lost in the dark, hopelessly trying to make sense of the chaos of our world and the chaos in our lives. God’s grace and love, in the person of Jesus, meets us where we are, shines a light into our lives, leads us out, forgives us of our failings, supports us in our grief, and gives us hope for the future.
In response to Wehner’s article, Aelwyd (forgive my pronunciation, it’s Welsh and I’m not…) writes:
“Grace is beauty in action: the elegance of kindness; the strength of compassion; the courage of forgiveness. Grace is the desire to ennoble those who have been shredded by life, and whose lives are lived in the shadows.
Grace is the unobtrusive response to need, the hand that touches the wound, the quiet ‘I am here’ to those who may never have known what it is like to be listened to; to be heard. Grace flows through every moment of the startling, achingly beautiful realization of what it means to be alive, its potential, and its vulnerability. I try to live by Grace, and in Grace I hope to die.”
May we, like Aelwyd, try to live by grace. May we allow ourselves to be so filled by the grace of the Christ Child that grace overflows and spills out of us into the world. Amen.