Phoebe Brown is a second-grade student in Independence, Missouri. While grocery shopping with her mother and sister, she found a discarded lottery ticket. To her surprise, the ticket was worth $100. Rather than spend the money on herself, Phoebe chose to buy groceries for families in need. Her proud mom told reporters, “For a mother, it’s more than you could possibly imagine.”
We can use some good news in the midst of bad news. This morning’s Washington Post reports that at least seven have died in wildfires engulfing Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Tornados in Alabama and Tennessee killed five people yesterday. One of the soccer players who died in Tuesday’s plane crash learned a week earlier that he would be a father.
Tragedies during the Christmas season are especially hard to fathom. My father died ten days before Christmas in 1979, forever changing the holiday for me. However, there’s good news here: Christmas marks the birth of the Suffering Servant who has “borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” (Isaiah 53:4).
The Bible tells us to “give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever” (Psalm 136:1). Twenty-five more times in the psalm we are assured that God’s “steadfast love endures forever.” “Steadfast love” translates the Hebrew hesed, the Old Testament equivalent to the New Testament’s agape love. It describes a love that is unconditional and unchanging, depending in no sense on us and in every sense on God.
It is an astounding fact that Jesus knows our every thought (Matthew 9:4), but he loves us anyway. He knows all our sins in the past (John 4:17–18) and all our sins in the future (Luke 22:34), but he loves us anyway. No sin or sorrow can make him love us any less than he does (Romans 8:35–39). No success can make him love us any more than he does.
How should we respond to such Christmas grace?
Let’s join the shepherds that first Christmas night, and the Wise Men when they arrived, and Simeon and Anna when they met the infant Christ: let’s bow our hearts and minds to Jesus in worship and prayer. Let’s make this Christmas season a time of communion with Christ. And we’ll turn the holidays into holy days.
In Pocket Prayers, Max Lucado assures us: “When we invite God into our world, he walks in. He brings a host of gifts: joy, patience, resilience. Anxieties come, but they don’t stick. Fears surface and then depart. Regrets land on the windshield, but then comes the wiper of prayer. The devil still hands me stones of guilt, but I turn and give them to Christ.”
In this way, the sufferings of a sinful world become the means of encountering grace. If a girl can use a discarded lottery ticket to feed the hungry, what can God do with your next prayer?
NOTE: For more on ways to honor Christ and serve others during Christmas, see Janet Denison’s The Character of Christmas. For my latest website article, see Tiger Woods’s putter and Christmas grace.
Publication date: December 1, 2016
For more from the Denison Forum on Truth and Culture, please visit www.denisonforum.org.
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