The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. - John 1:14Grace & Truth. These are the two elements that bring clarity to Christmas. Up until then it had been mostly truth. There were the Ten Commandments and we couldn't measure up. There was a command to have no other God other than the One True God and we made other gods, eventually insisting on a human King. Truth was we were messed up.
It's like getting a performance review and the only thing in it are the things you need to fix. Christmas changed all that. There's still truth. But now there's grace. Christmas clarity comes from both being married together in Jesus.
In practically every area of life we are judged by our performance. In school, at work, in sports. It's all about being first, being the best. There are no points for second place.Remember this photo finish in the pool at the Beijing Olympics?
One one hundredth of a second and Michael Phelps wins the 100 fly. Tough luck Milorad Cavic. Not fast enough. Not the best.
One gains worldwide notoriety. The other fades away into obscurity, unknown to most outside the world of swimming. One wins and while the other wins a silver it's just not gold. There's only one winner and he gets lavishly rewarded - completely deserved I believe. That's the way sports works. That's the way life works. Is that the way God works?
Rick Warren reminded me of this concept in his little book, The Purpose of Christmas.
The way we live is you get what you pay for – no such thing as a free lunch – if it's going to be then it's up to me – if you want something done right, do it yourself; and this one – God helps those who help themselves.
That's not in the Bible you know? It's a phrase from Ben Franklin's Poor Richard's Almanac. It's a phrase that goes with this performance notion.
And so we humans usually think that when it comes to spiritual matters, God must relate to us on the same performance basis. You must earn God's approval, live a life that deserves God's love and work your way to heaven by trying harder and trying to live a “good life.”
That's very consistent with our performance based thinking. Even coming to Church won't do it. Giving money won't do it. Being nice won't do it. But it seems so consistent with everything else in our world.
Christmas is God's performance review, Warren writes. “You've got it all wrong,” God says. “Definitely doing good things matters, but I love you because you are you not because of what you do.”
Our world is filled with people trying to find their way. Frustrated people who don't know what they're looking for. Nothing fills up the void. Nothing lasts – just wait until tomorrow morning around Noon when the newness has worn off. By evening or at least the day after tomorrow, some old things will begin to reappear.
Clearly it's Christmas. I pray you see through the fog, through the mess, past the packages and tree and food and friends and family to an out of the way manger. You have to look for it. It's off the beaten path, in an out of the way place unknown to most. It's there that you find what you're looking for. Bend a knee today and know the life that is the light of all humanity.