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“From Grief to Grace to Gratitude”
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
Lord Jesus, open our minds and hearts to Your truth, through the Holy Spirit, to the glory of God. Amen.
Last Sunday I mentioned how I had felt a little short-changed in regards to pre-Christmas sermons, because of the calendar and how Christmas landed on a Sunday and our choir so magnificently had presented their Christmas Cantata the Sunday before that… So, during this season between Christmas and Lent, I am segueing into that new Sermon Series on Promises of Grace with one last Christmas sermon today.
Last week we read from John’s Gospel’s one-verse Christmas narrative (1:14, “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”)
Today we turn to the New Testament book of Hebrews, which includes another theme of the incarnation – and this one comes with a message of both grace and hope, with what we receive and how we respond. Listen with me from Hebrews 2:10-18 for this teaching that brings us from gloom to grace, from darkness to light, from despair to hope, from Grief to Grace to Gratitude: Hebrews 2:10-18 ….—-
10 In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered. 11 Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters. 12 He says,
“I will declare your name to my brothers and sisters;
in the assembly I will sing your praises.” (Psalm 22:2)
13 And again,
“I will put my trust in him.” (Isaiah 8:17)
And again he says,
“Here am I, and the children God has given me.” (Isaiah 8:18)
14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. 16 For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. 17 For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. 18 Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
Remembering back to last week, or from your own knowledge of Scripture, what does John 1 and Hebrews 2 have in common with Genesis 1? [John says that “the Word, was with God and was God… Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made … The light shines in the darkness….” – Hebrews says that “God, through whom and for whom everything exists.” – Genesis tells us that “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth… And God said [spoke a Word], ‘Let there be light….’”)!
A missed opportunity, buyer’s remorse, a word you wish you could take back, a favorite shirt that was accidentally given to a thrift store, a deceased pet, a parent who has passed, a spouse or a child losing their life to cancer or a car accident, or a bet placed on Seattle yesterday after the first 8 minutes of the game – these are all levels of grief we each have to deal with at one time or another. And while some of them seem trivial compared to others, they all cause pain due to a sense of loss.
Have you ever wondered why God had to send His one-and-only Son to the cross? Have you ever considered the grief that God may have experienced when His Son cried from the cross, “Why have You forsaken me?”
This chapter in Hebrews tells us that “it was fitting that God should make the pioneer of [our] salvation perfect through what He suffered.”
Who is the “pioneer of our salvation”? [Jesus!]
He was made perfect through SUFFERING?
How did that happen? How did Christ’s suffering – His incarnation (from spirit to infant human body that required sleep and food and bathroom breaks, etc); His constant attacks from the religious and political leaders of His day; ultimately, His unwarranted arrest, illegal trial, trumped up charges, whipping, and crucifixion and death! – how did all of that “make perfect” His purpose for appearing on earth?
[Because that’s why He came! From the very beginning we have sinned our way out of God’s presence – Adam and Eve, Cain, the days of Noah, Mark Wheeler, and it just increases with every generation. And from the very beginning God has promised us a Savior – we find that in Genesis 3, Genesis 12, Genesis 19 – all the way through the Old Testament – and fulfilled in Jesus Christ.]
Why did suffering “perfect” our Savior? [It is by His suffering and death, and then His resurrection and ascension, that Jesus saves us. He suffered and died so that you and I might have a saving relationship with God our heavenly Father. Only a human person could take the judgement deserved by all humans, and only the Lord our God could take the judgement due ALL humans. Hebrews 2:14-18 says, “14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. 16 For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. 17 For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. 18 Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” – Listen to the first two tenants of the 4th Century Nicene Creed (#15 in our hymnbooks): We believe in one God,
the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
begotten from the Father before all ages,
God from God,
Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made;
of the same essence as the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven;
he became incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary,
and was made human.
He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered and was buried.
The third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures.
He ascended to heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again with glory
to judge the living and the dead.
His kingdom will never end. ]
Our natural response to His suffering, our loss of the One who loves us the most, His unjust and horrific death is GRIEF! We grieve that loss. How can we not mourn? Jesus died for me!!
What makes this grief better? The recognition of perfect, amazing grace! What makes this grief turn into GRACE? [It is by this act that we are given the right to be called children of God – saved by grace through faith.]
“God showed us how much a soul is worth by the purchase price He paid. It cost Him dearly, and that which is so hard won will not be easily given up. He spent His Son’s blood to purchase you, and He will spend His own power to keep you.
“As an earthly parent you rejoice to see your own good qualities reproduced in your children. God, the perfect parent, longs to see His attributes reflected in His saints. It is this image of God reflected in you that so enrages hell; it is this at which the demons hurl their mightiest weapons. When God defends you, He also defends Himself. Now knowing that the quarrel is God’s, surely He will not have you go forth to war at your own expense!”
A friend of mine posted this 17th Century British author and pastor William Gurnall quote. And I almost cried!
And all our grief turns, almost miraculously, into GRATITUDE! You mean I get to know Jesus my Savior personally, not because I have done anything to deserve it, but simply because God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that if I, or you, or whoever, all over the world, might believe in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life? Seriously? THANK YOU, JESUS!
Gracious God, Grace-filled God, Grace-giving God, as we live into another new year – after experiencing losses, after being hurt, after knowing pain, after feeling fears – boy do we need Your Grace upon Grace, Your Grace after Grace. Fill our lives again with Your Holy Spirit. We, today, receive You; we, today, believe in You. We, today, want to know Your power and Your love as our heavenly Father. We want to become children of God. Fill us with Your amazing Grace, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Gurnall, William; Christian in Complete Armour; 1662.
The Nicene Creed.