Everything about Christmas screams Grace. Or does it ? When I look at the conditions in which the ultimate incarnation of Grace came to be with us, I wonder. Today's representation of that day looks nothing like the first one.
On that blessed night, in the visible world, Grace was born...
- Out of a socially shameful out-of-wedlock conception and apparent illegitimacy
- From a carpentar and a peasant girl
- Alone without any of the direct family around
- In the most insignificant of small villages
- In a stable with smelly animals, with unsanitary conditions
- Placed in a feeding trough with spittle and munched straw
- Clothed with common rag strips, probably his mother’s underclothes
- Visited only by sheperds, the despised dregs of peasantry
But in the invisible world...
- Legions of angels were filling the sky and singing glorious praises
- A special star was guiding wise men to a majestic destination
- Four thousand years of prophecies were being fulfilled
- God was manifesting himself in the space-time continuum for the express announced purpose of dying as a sacrifice for our sins
- The definitive way back to God was being revealed
And so everything about the Christ's day doesn't scream Grace in today's noise. It humbly whispers it in the invisible.
Christmas. It's the quiet Grace.
During a British conference on comparative religions, experts from around the world debated what, if any, belief was unique to the Christian faith. They began eliminating possibilities. Incarnation? Other religions had different versions of gods' appearing in human form. Resurrection? Again, other religions had accounts of return from death. The debate went on for some time until C. S. Lewis wandered into the room. "What's the rumpus about?" he asked, and heard in reply that his colleagues were discussing Christianity's unique contribution among world religions. Lewis responded, "Oh, that's easy. It's grace."
After some discussion, the conferees had to agree. The notion of God's love coming to us free of charge, no strings attached, seems to go against every instinct of humanity. The Buddhist eight-fold path, the Hindu doctrine of karma, the Jewish covenant, and the Muslim code of law -- each of these offers a way to earn approval. Only Christianity dares to make God's love unconditional.
Aware of our inbuilt resistance to grace, Jesus talked about it often. He described a world suffused with God's grace: where the sun shines on people good and bad; where birds gather seeds gratis, neither plowing nor harvesting to earn them; where untended wildflowers burst into bloom on the rocky hillsides. Like a visitor from a foreign country who notices what the natives overlook, Jesus saw grace everywhere. Yet he never analyzed or defined grace, and almost never used the word. Instead, he communicated grace through stories we know as parables.
[Philip Yancey, What's So Amazing About Grace?, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1997), 45.]