The 25th of December is past. The year 2018 is present. However, the season of Christmas remains as we move into its final days before the Epiphany when the revelation of God incarnate was first made known in the baby and person of Jesus.
The season of Christmas is a wonderful time. A time of good tidings and great joy. A time when people come together to commune around Christmas trees and dinner tables sharing and exchanging the gifts of love and thoughtfulness in the form of wrapped holiday packages, or the gift of a holiday meal.
At its best, Christmas is a time of memory-making, fellowship, storytelling and rest which is a fitting sign post to a year’s end and the start of another year’s beginning.
Yet, at its worst, Christmas is a time of sorrow and pain that heightens people’s hardships, dejection and struggle. And at is ultimate worst, Christmas is a time of exploitation and greed, signifying the importance of consumerism and profiteering; perverting and manipulating the true “reason for the season” which is to highlight the significance and impact of grace.
During this season, over 2000 years ago, a baby was born. And this baby traversed throughout the cosmos, penetrated our atmosphere, and came into our world in order that He may bring the good gifts of grace, compassion, and love which had the means to transform our society, and transform humanity’s relationship with God.
This baby did not come riding a mythical sleigh which is pulled behind magical reindeer that allows Him to travel the world in one night. But, this baby came placed in a mundane and practical manger surrounded by sheep and dirty cattle. And was situated in a particular country, specific town, and in the company of a particular community of people.
This baby did not come down the chimney of a house owned by wealthy, well known and upper middle-class family who gets to enjoy all the privileges, liberties , and blessings that American GOP tax plans have to offer. But, this baby came through the birth canal of a young, lower class and marginalized woman who had no rights, who had no privileges, and who was left to the underside of society.
Furthermore, this baby did not come in white face, with a fat stomach, a beard and wearing a red jumper. But, this baby came marked with dark skin- poor, meek, fragile, and wrapped in swaddling clothes. Not bearing gifts that were to be set at the foot of a Colorado Blue Spruce, reserved only for the well-behaved and “nice” boys and girls. But, who came, nonetheless, bearing the good gift of grace for all persons- all sinners, and all fallible, corrupt, and imperfect people- which sets in our hearts that we are the beloved and precious children of God. Empowering us to live our lives in a way that honors the intrinsic goodness in all things and honors God’s will for the world!
As Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes, grace is not some “cheap” gift that costs nothing and that demands nothing from us in return. Grace is neither some free, unsolicited, low-cost gift, nor is grace that which permits us to live in ways that harm and disenfranchise the vulnerable by making healthcare inaccessible, removing social safety nets, or passing tax laws that advantage for-profit businesses while immorally widening the economic gap between the rich and the poor.
Rather, grace is that gift which compels us to love the world, those things in the world, and calls us to see worth and positive value in all created things of the world. Said differently, grace is not merely an unlimited supply of unmerited favor, but grace is a “costly” gift that compels us to live the gospel truth that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves, do justice unto “the least of these,” heal the brokenhearted and the wounded, and to set free those who are in need of liberty.
Thus, grace is when God takes what has been deemed as ordinary in the world and calls them sacred. Grace is when God takes that which has been oppressed and marginalized and calls them blessed. Grace is when God takes what was intended to bring harm and turns it into a vehicle to bring the good. And most of all, grace is when God proclaims that the child of a young, unwed mother is blessed of the Holy Spirit!
Therefore, let us move into 2018 not only celebrating the good news of a new year, but also the good news and revelation of God’s incarnation in Jesus. For it is through God’s presence in the world that all persons may celebrate our divine parentage, our cosmic genesis, and our messianic lineage which empowers us to live the gospel truth, and to receive the good gift of grace for every new year to come.