When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him. Luke 2:39-40
The Twelfth Gift of Christmas: Grace
When you take a step back and allow the totality of that first Christmas to sink in, you may feel, as I often do, completely overwhelmed by the miracles that occurred one after another to bring this prophecy of a Messiah to life. From the chosen mother to the immaculate conception to the fact that a baby was delivered in a stable without any complications of note, the story is nearly beyond belief.
But perhaps the most challenging aspect to wrap our heads around is the fact that it happened at all! God didn’t have to do this. He didn’t have to send His Son. He didn’t have to hang a star of hope in the sky. He didn’t have to involve a teenage girl and her new husband, or shepherds out in the fields or brilliant, wise men from a faraway land.
He didn’t have to step into the marriage of this couple that was facing an enormous test in its infancy. He didn’t have to wrap the Son of God in the swaddling clothes of a lowly carpenter’s son. Moreover, He didn’t have to involve Elisabeth and Zachariah and John or Simeon or King Herod. He could have brought this Savior to us discreetly, quietly, safely.
He could have done any number of things differently. The fact is, the Christmas story as we know and love and get to cherish it was divinely orchestrated from start to finish and is representative of the greatest gift the world has ever known—Grace.
Grace is the unmerited, undeserved favor of God. Not even Mary deserved to carry Jesus. By grace, God selected her to fill that role. Those shepherds hadn’t necessarily done anything to warrant a heavenly host visit and divine baby shower invitation. It was by grace that God included them in His miracle.
One of my favorite parts of the entire story is one that I didn’t take particular note of for most of my life. It occurs chronologically after the traditionally included “events” of the first Christmas. It takes place after the birth after the family flees to Egypt for safety. It happens after the angels sing and the wise men come. It occurs when the family finally makes their way back home.
In Luke 2, we read that Mary, Joseph, and Jesus returned home. There, Jesus was filled with wisdom and grew in the grace of the Lord.
You may wonder why I find this such an essential and miraculous part of the story. I suppose it’s because we experience 364 days every year that are not Christmas Day. Our lives revolve primarily around work, home, family, and normal obligations. This verse tells me that even in the norm, Christmas matters. It is Christmas that allows us to spend 364 days of the year existing within and by the grace of God.
So the question arises—what do we do with all of those days? How do God’s love and grace manifest within us on every other day of the year that isn’t Christmas? I think perhaps the most obvious answers can be found by looking at all the days Jesus spent on this earth after the first Christmas. What did He do? How did He spend His time?
Even a brief skim over the Gospels in the New Testament paints a pretty clear picture of Jesus, His life, and His decisions. We see Him loving those who have not been loved. He heals those who are ill. He resurrects what once was dead. He shares His life with disciples and makes a point to include others in His ministry. He stands up for truth and His Heavenly Father. Eventually, He makes the ultimate sacrifice for us on the cross.
His is a life of grace. As His children and recipients of His grace, it only makes sense that we too live a life reflective of our Savior.
How will you do that in 2019? How will you spend your “not-Christmas days”? For a start, you could prayerfully consider giving of your resources to help those who are sick, destitute, without homes, health care, or hope of a future. The BGR Gift Catalog is full of things you can do—items you can send—hope you can share with those in need. From water filters and wells to medical supplies to gardening seeds and training, there are so many ways you can demonstrate the love and grace of God to others.
This year, as the clock and calendar roll past Christmas Day, challenge yourself to carry the grace of the season with you everywhere you go, sharing it with everyone you can. Christmas is a magical, special time. But it is Christmas that sets in motion a lifestyle of grace, compassion, and the glorification of a God who gave us His all.
Lord, as Christmas comes and goes, help me to carry the meaning of it throughout the year. Help me wear a countenance of grace and cognizance of your unmerited favor. Teach me how to show grace to others, in both tangible and intangible ways. Thank you so much for that first Christmas and your perfect, eternal gift. Give me a heart that beats to the rhythm of the anthem of peace, love, and joy you gave to us that one special night so long ago.