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John 1:1-5, 14-18
“The Truth about Grace, and the Grace about Truth”
12/16/2018, 3rd Sunday of Advent
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
Through the Written Word,
And the spoken word,
May we know Your Living Word,
Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
On this Third Sunday of this four-Sunday season of Advent we focus our attention on the themes of Truth and Grace
. Our Advent Candle Lighters reminded us that:
The presence of God in human form is the “dawn of redeeming grace”, says the Silent Night’s third verse. God so desired to be “up close and personal” that God came to live, breathe, feel, teach, touch, and love. And that, made in the image of God, we are called to nurture relationships that birth, multiply and radiate grace in the world. What would the world be like if “love’s pure light” was at the center?
The radiant beams of light now come from the newborn infant in this third verse of “Silent Night.” And this verse contains one of my favorite phrases, “love’s pure light.” So, of course, Love is the word for the week. Love and grace go hand-in-hand, and the Gospel of John begins with four mentions of that word, grace, and then doesn’t mention it again the entire rest of the book. As one commentator put it, “the entirety of the Gospel will show what grace looks like, tastes like, smells like, sounds like, and feels like. This is Christmas-preaching.
For John, God becoming flesh in Jesus [shows us what God’s grace looks like, and] that God wants to know it and feel it as well.”
So, this Sunday is about love. It’s about the Truth about God’s Grace, and it’s about the Grace of real Truth!”
Listen to these words from God’s Word, from the New Testament Gospel According to John 1:1-5, 14-18 …. —-
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. …
… 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.
15 (John [the Baptist] testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”) 16 Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.
God’s face in Jesus Christ has entered the world where it will be kissed by mother Mary, cradled in Joseph’s rough carpenter-hands, and washed after the feeding and burping. This is real human life, full humanity wrapped around love’s pure light that will shine in a way remembered ever since. It is a love that “redeems” us – makes good on God’s promise to be with us always; never leaving, never forsaking us. Like a coupon that we get to redeem… only this one is available to every-one!
The beauty of the hymn’s poetry in this verse speaks of light as “dawning”. Dawn rises up, dawn pierces the dark night, transforming it. From the earliest human ancestors, dawn has been a source of reassurance that once again life continues. That the forces of life have gifted us and we have arisen to see another day.
In John’s opening lines, we hear of the presence of Christ from the beginning of time when “let there be light” constituted the first dawn in our faith story. Coupled with the idea of Jesus as a human baby, this is the most poignant melding of birth of the cosmos and birth from a womb. Divinity and humanity as one.
We witness this light and “we have seen His glory.” There it is again… “glory” and the outpouring of light. This is “true light” that en-lightens us. Through the in-breaking of this light, we receive light and are “lit up.” Hence the question we asked in the Advent Candle lighting: “What would the world be like if ‘love’s pure light’ was at the center” of all we do, of all we create?
Made in the image of this One who is grace upon grace, how are we to nurture relationships that birth, multiply and radiate grace in the world? A grace-full existence. What would that look like?
Well, it would be wonderful and lest we get too “Hallmark cardsy” about it, we also know that it is not devoid of pain. It was the love of Christ for the oppressed that got Him in trouble and then crucified. It is this “sacrifice of love” that compels us to do what is sometimes difficult… get out of our comfort zones and risk extending the fullness of grace and love to all we encounter. “Fullness” means “complete” or “superabundant.” The incarnation of God, en-fleshed love, means taking on all aspects of our humanity, including rejection. This is life. This is love. The Truth about Grace is that we are expected to live it out in ways that demonstrate how wonderful God is! How do we demonstrate God’s grace?
Seeing the face of God in the people of our neighborhoods and recognizing the light radiating from the people around us can shift our entire ministry and the way we see relationships. The “silence” that is needed is to be quiet long enough to listen to the stories of amazing abundance where we might assume poverty.
Consider the light of an “at-risk teen” adventure from the edge of a cliff to a productive life-style that If You Could Save Just One is developing right here across the street on our church garage-lot! We had very little to do with that getting started, other than having loved a neighbor who 10-years later remembered that love and came back inviting us to join her in this life-saving project! That is the Truth about Grace!
The Truth about God’s perfect Grace is that it is completely un-earned, un-deserved; Grace is God’s offer of forgiveness and of His presence and power, to you, to every-one; the Truth about Grace is that we can do nothing to deserve it more than we deserve it today – and we can do nothing to lose it!
But this passage in John also tells us that there is a Grace about Truth we should know! The Truth is that we do not deserve God’s love or forgiveness! If we deserved it, it would not be grace! What we deserve is God’s justice – that would mean that since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) and that the wages of that kind of sin is death (Romans 6:23) – God’s justice means eternity without God’s presence and power. But, John 3:16-18 tells us, “God so loves the world (grace after grace) that everyone who believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting Life(!). For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned (grace after grace), but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s One and Only Son (that’s the Truth!)!”
Silent night, holy night!
Son of God, love’s pure light,
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord at Thy birth,
Jesus, Lord at Thy birth
Invite people to share some stories during Fellowship time or over lunch of ways you have experienced God’s love and encourage them to share this “good news” all around this week. – talk about the back banner – use it to pray!
God of Redeeming Glory, in our darkest, loneliest, most depressed moments, we discover the Truth of Your Grace and we just long o rest there, for an eternity. Thankfully, that’s exactly what You offer. Fill us again, right now, with Your redeeming grace, through Jesus, our Lord at His birth. Amen.
McFee, Marcia; www.worshipdesignstudio.com