Summary: This sermon, based on John 1: 14 and Luke 1:50, was preached on the Sunday after Christmas which happened to be December 26th. It’s focus is on the grace of Jesus and our inability to earn our salvation.
Jesus Bring Us Grace
Lynn Harold Hough was a Methodist pastor in the early part of the twentieth century and became the President of Northwestern University. In 1908 he became the first to write a “Pledge of Allegiance to the Christian Flag”. Once when he was speaking to a conference of pastors in Los Angeles he told this story: “A group of men, at work in a coal mine, were trapped deep in the earth because of a cave-in of a shaft. Their only hope lay in rescue from the outside.” [--W. T. Purkiser, ed. Exploring Our Christian Faith (Kansas City, Mo.: Beacon Hill Press, 1966), 270.]
That, my brothers and sisters, is the message we have been proclaiming during the entire Season of Advent. Just like those coal mines who depended upon rescue from the outside, you and I as sinners needed Someone from the outside to redeem us from sin and death, and that is the reason Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem. As the trapped miners could do nothing to save themselves, so there was and there still is nothing you and I can ever possibly do to save ourselves from sin and death. This is a picture of grace.
God has blessed us with a Wonderful Advent and Christmas at Central United Methodist Church. I have especially been blessed and drawn closer to Jesus in preparing the messages for this Holy Season: “Jesus Brings Us Peace,” “Jesus Brings Us Love,” “Jesus Brings Us Joy”, and “Jesus Brings Us God.” In the time of preparation for each one of them I can honestly say, as we share in our Emmaus small groups called Reunion Groups; those were the times each week when I “felt closest to Christ.”
In preparing the final two messages for Advent, two verses from the greater context really grabbed my attention and seemed to keep saying to me, “That will preach.” The first were the words from Mary’s Song in Luke 1:50 from the message “Jesus Brings Us Joy.” Recall that verse one more time with me this morning:
“His mercy extends to those who fear Him;
From generation to generation.”
The word “mercy” was the attention grabber for me. Then go back one more time to John 1:14 from last Sunday’s message “Jesus Brings Us God”:
“The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We
have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from
the Father, full of grace and truth.”
The attention grabber for me in that verse, which recalled the one from Luke as well, was the word “grace.” Therefore, I want to share one more message of the Season on this Sunday after Christmas Day, “Jesus Brings Us Grace.”
When you look up the words grace and mercy in a thesaurus, you find they are indeed synonyms along with goodwill, which is another word that reminds me of the Gospel’s account of Christmas. That is the message of Luke 2:13-14, “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
‘Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!’”
Jesus brings us grace, mercy, goodwill. Jesus if “full of grace,” and
Mary praises God whose “mercy extends to those who fear Him.” The
Baptist pastor from the early twentieth century Rolfe Barnard once said,
“Mercy is God’s favor that holds back from us what we deserve. Grace is
God’s favour that gives us what we do not deserve.” [--http://www.cfdevotionals.org/devpg98/de980610.htm].
Traditionally we define grace as “The unmerited favor of God.” If I merit something, I deserve it; it means that I have earned it. A student takes “The National Merit Scholarship Exam,” scores high, and wins a college scholarship as the result. That student has earned the scholarship; he or she deserves it.” When it comes to salvation, forgiveness of sins, eternal life, I can do absolutely nothing to earn it; and it is something I will never deserve.
Grace declares that God has always been the One to take the initiative in bringing us salvation. It was God in the Garden of Eden Who came seeking His lost children in Genesis 3:8-9, “Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as He was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, ‘Where are you?’” God came seeking His sinful children who were hiding from Him in fear and trembling, because He is a God of grace. As God came in the garden seeking Adam and Eve, so Jesus states this is His same ministry and mission and his promise to Zacchaeus in Luke 19:10, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”