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I received a disturbing phone call this week.
A guy – let’s call him Jeff – called our church quite randomly. Jeff started by telling me he was ringing the churches in the city to see if they preach the full gospel.
That question always makes me wince … I never know what people mean when they use that term, “The full gospel”. So I asked. And Jeff told me how important the Ten Commandments are and that if people (especially Christians) don’t strictly keep them, God will reject them and they will go to hell.
I asked Jeff which church he went to and, as expected, he didn’t go to a church. He said he was just making a list of all the churches in the city and which ones preached the full gospel and which didn’t – though he had no intention of attending one.
After trying to explain to Jeff that the full gospel is actually one of grace and not judgment or law-keeping, he told me that I was deceiving our congregation and would be held accountable.
At that point, Jeff’s tone suggested he didn’t want to discuss it. He just wanted to tick our church off his list. So I politely thanked Jeff for the call and hung up.
At first, I felt a little annoyed by Jeff’s call. But quickly, my annoyance turned to sadness as I realized what a difficult and sad existence he would be living. An existence that requires him to measure up to something that none of us can ever measure up to. An existence that is marked with constant striving and struggling to be something that God Himself told us we can never be – sinlessly perfect.
Very quickly, my thoughts turned to Christmas. I remembered the message I’d just preached on Sunday … That Jesus came to earth as our Messiah so that he could experience everything we go through and (according to Heb 4) EMPATHISE with our weakness. Imagine that. The creator of the universe – the only One who is sinless and perfect – became fully human so He could understand and share our feelings when we are at our weakest.
This is the gift of Christmas! This is what Jesus came for. He was born to this earth that He might die for our sins and weaknesses and cover us with a grace that looks past our wrong doing.
Sometimes it’s so easy to get down on ourselves for not being perfect. But can I suggest to you that God Himself looks at you with more compassion than that. In fact, God looks at you and doesn’t see your righteousness or your unrighteousness … He sees the righteousness of Christ.
Christmas is the time that reminds us it was God’s initiative to bring us into relationship with Him. Christmas reminds us that it was God’s initiative to cover us with His grace. Christmas reminds us of a love so great, that He fulfilled the prophets, the commandments and the law on our behalf so we wouldn’t have to.
Rejoice this Christmas that God has covered you with His love and grace.
What a great time to be alive! See you on Sunday.
Alex & Sarah