Friday, 19 September 2014
Taste Grace Before You Start Buying Gifts
I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving, cause now we have to drag ourselves out of bed and get to the stores. Black Friday is upon us. Time to start buying all those gifts we need to give on Dec 25.
Maybe you’ve already finished your shopping. I’ll try not to be jealous. Gift giving is the hardest part of Christmas for me. I so want each gift to be special for each person, as well as fitting within the limits of time and budget, that it makes me crazy. And this year I’m behind schedule.
I for one need to taste the grace of God before I plunge into the frenzy. I want to invite you to join me, whether you’re behind or ahead of schedule, whether you’re planning to keep it simple or go all out. We need to receive before we start to give. That’s the pattern of God’s grace. First, he is the giver and we get to be the recipients. Then we become givers, because we now have something to give away. This is not just a once for all thing either, it’s meant to be the daily pattern for our lives.
Let’s picture the Father standing in front of us with a twinkle in his sovereign eye, holding his hands behind his back. “Which hand?” he asks. Like eager children we look from right to left a few times and then make our choice. Have we chosen well? Will he pull out an empty hand or the one with the goodies?
“Surprise!” he says and pulls out both hands, each with a priceless gift for us. In the right hand his Son, in the left hand his Spirit. With both hands the Father saves us, says the ancient church father Irenaeus. And with both hands the Father gives us the only two gifts we will ever need. Two gifts, not one, held out to you and me, and to a weary world.
The Gift of the Son
The Father holds nothing back. He knows our need–our poverty, our sorrows, our failings, our sufferings, our temptations, our excuses, our moralistic triumphs and our moral catastrophes. He knows that we don’t need a new sweater or even a new car. We don’t need shiny new trappings to cover our tattered selves. We need to be made new from the inside out. We don’t need stuff, we need a Savior. We don’t need virtual help, we need flesh and blood rescue.
So he reaches in and gives his most precious possession, his Son, his beloved. He doesn’t count the cost. He doesn’t begrudge the gift. He gives his Treasure in love to a wandering world, bored and restless and looking for the next new thing.
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16
I need a Savior right now to save me from all the temptations and sorrow this busy holiday brings. I need to take my Savior with me into the malls and office parties and family gatherings so I can offer him to the other weary wanderers around me.
The Gift of the Spirit
After we reach out empty hands and take the Son, he gives his second priceless gift, his Spirit. That’s because Jesus didn’t just come down save us and then wave goodbye. “I’m outta here. See you in heaven!” He asked the Father to send the Spirit so that everything we’ve received from the Son would become ours in experience.
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever…John 14:16
Jesus is our Emmanuel, God with us. The Holy Spirit is our indwelling Helper, God in us. Jesus ascended, but he didn’t leave before he had made us holy enough for God to take up residence inside everyone who has been cleansed by faith in his blood. This means I am truly not alone, not ever. I now have an indwelling Savior, Friend, Guide, Helper, Warrior, and King.
I need that kind of help right now as I enter the countdown to Christmas. The Holy Spirit stands ready to guide my choices, purify my motives, show me my Savior, and open my mouth. He will empower me not just to remember that Jesus is the reason for this season, but to bear witness to him in the most unexpected moments.
So believe. Receive. These gifts are from your Father for your daily use, your daily delight. Count on them. And count on him, because these gifts are expressions of his
- generosity. “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” Romans 8:32
- power. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans 15:13
- presence. “For you…have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!'” Romans 8:15
Then go out and do what you have to do.