Where's the Grace?
Goal: That the hearers are encouraged to prepare their hearts & lives for the coming of the Christ.
Where’s the grace?!? This statement brings me back to the time in the 1980’s television commercial where an elderly lady was the Wendy’s restaurant ad campaign with the slogan “Where’s the Beef”! Here we are, just six days away from Christmas morning, and the world around us is hustling and bustling to grab those most coveted Christmas gifts to fulfill the wants and desires of family members and friends. There are Christmas parties at work, Christmas light displays to be seen and children’s Christmas pageants to attend. When I look at what is happening in the world around me at this time of year, I cannot help but ask, “Where’s the grace!”
Paul tells us in the epistle reading “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest”. Reading through this in preparation of this morning’s message I was reminded of my family’s latest trip to Wisconsin
There we were, Eunice, Joshua and I early in the morning at Kohl’s in Beaver Dam. It was the day after Thanksgiving sale or what is otherwise known as “Black Friday”. We were taking advantage of their outrageous sale prices for a few small Christmas gifts for relatives in Wisconsin. There was a woman behind us with quite a few items herself. Her cell phone kept ringing, I could only assume from the one sided conversation, that her son on the other end was changing his Christmas gift list and the expectations of a child were met with a barrage of course words due to impatience and inconvenience. So, where’s the Grace? Didn’t seem it was there.
There are those in the world around us, those without hope, those without Christ, they are the walking dead. Of course they are not physically dead, rather spiritually dead. They are dead in trespasses and sins, walking in the course of this world, searching to fill their lives with things and pleasures to make their otherwise hopeless existence more tolerable. These seem like course words from Paul, but he knew, and I know as well. I remember the life before Christ; the hopeless existence, being dead inside. Perhaps you remember your life before Christ as well.
Was there a time in your life where you were one of the ‘walking dead’? A time when you chased the desires of your flesh, the lusts of your mind? Paul says that, “we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind.” The difference for us is that small four letter Greek word ποτε, which is translated “formerly”. The use of this word points to a time prior to our conversion, a B.C. era in our lives.
Even though we are believing members of the body of Christ, faithful Christians, we struggle sometimes with the desires of the flesh and the lusts of the mind. Sometimes our flesh is too week and we give in to those struggles, those desires and lusts. We live in the world and it is so easy to be pulled back into its ways, to follow, as Paul says, the course of this world. We can get caught up in it; caught up in the lights and the tinsel…the parties and the gifts of the season. Our focus is taken off of the coming of the Christ child...pulled away from preparing our hearts and lives for His coming.
We are in a new life, no longer in the former life. As Christians, we have the answer to the question, “Where’s the Grace?!” It is as was read in the Gospel reading “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14). It is Jesus, the Word became flesh. It is the babe born of the virgin lying in the stable. It is God in diapers. He is our grace.
Jesus came to live the life we struggle with daily. Jesus lived the live we could not. He fulfilled the requirement of God’s Law for us. Jesus sacrificed His life on the cross for you…for me…for the forgiveness of our sins, all our sins. Jesus was raised to life, and we too are and will be raised to new life as well. Paul tells us in the lesson this morning, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him (Eph 2:4-6a).
So, Where’s the Grace?!! We find it is here in this church. It is here…in the waters of baptism, where we are crucified with Christ. Where we die to the old life to the course of this world, to the desires of the flesh and of the mind…where we are raised together with Him. It is in here…the hearing of God’s Word, read from the lectern; it is here where the Gospel is proclaimed from this pulpit. It is here…in the eating and drinking of the Body and Blood of Christ at the altar. God’s Grace is here it is here for you, it is here for me. God’s Grace is a gift, a very precious gift given to you…given to me.
Recently on television there has been another commercial. A woman stands at the door receiving flowers from a delivery man. The woman is excited and very joyful until the driver tells her she owes him sixty-five dollars for the flowers, when the woman’s joy turns to grief and a remark about that not being fair. Some gift, huh? These gifts from God come at no price at all. Paul continues on to say, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Through faith we obtain these gifts of grace. So what do we do with these gifts?
We use these gifts of His grace to serve others, to do the good works that God has prepared for us before hand. Paul tells us “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed” (2 Cor9:8). God’s Grace is displayed in the lives of you all here at Immanuel. You show the Grace of God through your work in His kingdom. Through the Habitat for Humanity work days, through the efforts of the Community Care team who collected enough food and financial support to feed thirty-five needy families Christmas dinners. It is displayed in the Sr. High Youth at Handicamp and it is displayed in you younger school aged children as you help your parents at home. It is displayed in all the various ways you serve Christ here at Immanuel and in the community around us.
So where’s the grace? It is in the Word become flesh…It is here, at Immanuel, in Word…in Sacrament, given to you from God the Father through faith in Christ. In His Name! Amen.
To His Glory!