i am thinking through this season more deeply and waiting in expectation for God to show up. as i do this, i find that i'm getting less sentimental about the actual christmas season, and more wrapped up in something bigger than sentiment. the problem with sentiment is that it's usually unrealistic or based on a half-truth anyway.
i'm not willing to settle for sentiment any longer.
i want something more.
and as i ask for more from God, it's not looking like i thought it would. i think about mary as she wrapped her baby in rags and laid both her expectations and the savior in an animal trough. it's really happening like this?
i asked God that question this morning as i thought through broken relationships and hardships. wait, i asked for a gift...what are you giving me?
and a response that seems clearer and clearer as the day progresses, i have given you grace. it is not flashy and it is not glamorous. it hurts to give it and it will bring death. but that death will produce life.
death to myself and to what i think is "fair".
but they hurt me
but it's not right
but i don't deserve this!
here i am acting like a toddler with a sense of entitlement. it's supposed to go my way, God. not yours. i know better.
and yet, there it is. grace upon grace.
the answer is not making my point, helping them see how much they hurt me, or getting what i want. the answer is grace given when unmerited. not grace that comes from me, but grace that comes from something bigger than me. without God as my source, i will say, i am out of grace to give. this was the last hurt i can handle. and by the way, this is not going like i thought it would, so i quit.
but when we see ourselves rightly...poor and wretched with nothing to offer a holy God, we begin to see our own need for grace. i don't deserve God's mercy and His good gifts. i often spit in his face and say, i don't need you.
and yet You give me grace upon grace. upon grace. upon grace. and then more grace.
THE gift. the best gift.
this isn't about me and so and so. this is about me and God.
and this is about the command i am given as a follower of Christ:
now you give grace.
or as paul says, be tenderhearted with one another, forgiving as christ forgave YOU.
as you go spend time with your spouse, extended families, and friends this year under uncomfortable circumstances, amidst dysfunction and strife, in subtle disagreements and large ones, in blaring pain or in quiet suffering, remember the gift of underserved grace you were given when Jesus died on the cross for you.
and from that ask Christ to help you give grace upon grace and forgiveness generously. if given with stipulations: this is the last time! , your so called grace will fail and eventually will come out uglier than you thought. because what you are giving is not grace at all. grace given with stipulations is actually bitterness, wrath, and vengeance.
your family or friends will hurt you again. it's inevitable. because humans do this. you do this.
this is why celebrating the birth of Christ is more than sentiment. we remind ourselves that God sent his son as a baby... his coming looking nothing like anyone thought it would. and then died the death we deserve after he lived the life we should have lived, gives us quite a different perspective. all of this really isn't "fair". what's fair is that we are separated from a Holy God... and YET, God made a way through this baby named Jesus for us to be saved. we don't get what we deserve...
it's not fair! hooray that it's not fair! let us not be the unforgiving servant this year. we quarrel over the 10 bucks someone owes us, when we owe an immense amount more to our king.
and let us all choose, even despite it's appearance, the raggedy old-looking gift of grace any day over a sparkly new promise of sentiment.