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A Cup of Christmas Grace

December 19, 2016

Christmas is the most wonderful time of year. At least that is what the carols tell us. Christmas is filled with gift giving, family gathering, fond remembering, tradition keeping and even much mistletoeing, whatever that is. We sing of Good King Wenceslas, Santa Claus spying on you while you are sleeping and jingle bells rocking around the Christmas tree. We spend many hours watching Christmas movies new and old.

Two of the most popular Christmas movies are A Christmas Carol and It’s a Wonderful Life. A Christmas Carol is the story of Ebeneezer Scrooge who one Christmas Eve was visited by four ghosts. Scrooge was a stingy, miser who loved money and hated mankind. Scrooge’s spectral visitors showed him the error of his ways. He woke up Christmas morning with a newfound joy and a hunger to bring good to all mankind. The surly, lonely old man who stalked up the dark stairs the night before leapt and laughed as he danced down them in the morning light.

It’s a Wonderful Life is the story of George Bailey, a man with big dreams and an even bigger heart. He never saw the world, built tall buildings or became famous. He was left behind in his small town, running a small Building and Loan while watching the world pass him by. One Christmas Eve every thing came crashing down around him. The weight of another’s mistake fell on George’s shoulders. He was on the verge of suicide when an angel with the most unangelic name of Clarence intervened. Clarence showed George just how much impact he had on others. Without George Bailey the entire town would have turned into a jaded, wicked dive. George came to his senses and discovered “no man is a failure who has friends.”

These movies capture the general feelings of many at Christmas time. Much of Christmas sentiment revolves around a desire to be kind and do good for others. Many think if we could just be better people the world would be a better place. Carolers sing about peace on earth and goodwill towards men while we long for these things to be genuinely present in our communities and in our world.

Christmas highlights goodness and goodwill but in doing so it reminds us these things are not really present most of the time. We parade them around for a few weeks at the end of the year, but we know in our hearts they are lacking the rest of the year. Christmas highlights the need of humanity. Christmas rightly understood shows that mankind’s need can never be solved by being better, more generous people.

Though Galatians was not written specifically to address the phenomenon of an American Christmas does provide a powerful antidote to the sort of sentimentality that passes itself off as joy and satisfaction. Man does not need a resolve to be a better person. Man does not need to know life has meaning.

When the Grinch stood on the tip-top of Mt. Crumpit he heard the celebration of the Whos down in Whoville. Something miraculous happened in his heart. “In Whoville they say that the Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day.” Like the Grinch man needs a changed heart. The need of humanity is greater still. Man needs new heart. The need of mankind can only be satisfied by the grace of God.

Christmas is all about grace, not good works. The message of grace is found in the earliest Christmas declarations. “You shall call his name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins.” “For unto you is born this day a Savior which is Christ the Lord.” The Savior man needs was born in Bethlehem. The baby born of Mary is the Deliverer God promised His people. The Savior is God Himself.

The story of Christmas is the story of man’s need for a Savior. The story of Christmas is man has a Savior. Jesus is that Savior who came, not to show men how to live better lives, but to take on His back the entire punishment of all our sin.

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