This week a young man asked his mother a question, “Can people who shoot people go to heaven?” She responded with some thoughts on grace, but He kept pressing and said, “Mom, there has to be a line at which God says ‘you crossed it, you’re going down.” To be honest that question redirected my thoughts for the Christmas Eve message. Take the question out of its Newtown setting and I think we all struggle with the questions of lines.
Is there a line beyond which God’s grace cannot extend? Where is the line? Have I crossed it? Am I close? Has someone I care about crossed that line? If I crossed it, can I ever go back?
But isn’t Christmas a reminder of the lines that God will cross. In fact at the heart of Christmas we discover the wild grace of God that obliterates the lines. There are no lines it cannot cross; no lines which can form a barrier to God’s grace. In the story of Jesus’ birth we catch a glimpse of how far his grace would go, but we didn’t understand the full extent. It’s not just the line between heaven and earth, it’s far more profound. Not till we moved from the manger to the cross, did we begin to understand how far grace driven by love would go. The cross obliterates every line. The cross is not on the other side of the line, it occupies the center and nothing can stop it.
That changes things. Think of the words you have heard in the last year. Newtown, fiscal cliffs, scandal, child abuse, cancer, funerals, divorce, hunger, poverty, Benghazi, suicide, sex slavery, unemployment, and Christmas; it reminds me of the old language game. “Which one of these words is not like the others?” The truth is when Christmas gets tacked on to the end of a dark world, it seems out of place, but Christmas was never meant to follow the “and” at the end of a list. Isaiah called Christmas, “the light shining in the darkness.” John called Christmas, “the beholding of the glory of God full of grace and truth.” Christmas is the turning point of hope, the coming down of heaven to earth, the peace-is-coming event.
And Christmas is the wild, line-obliterating grace of God let loose in the world.
Please understand the existence of this wild, line-obliterating grace does not diminish the tragedy of darkness and evil, but rather the darkness simply reveals the glory of this grace. If this grace is not wild enough to forgive us for our evil, it will never be strong enough to heal us in our hurts. As we look back over the last year, we see the darkness, but light fills our hearts and minds. Everywhere we look we see Christ-light shining in the darkness.
I have watched people foster children, sponsor and adopt children. I have listened to people who have shared the message of hope with their friends. I have served beside those who are giving their time and their money to bless people in need. I have listened to the stories of wild grace let loose in the land. It gives me hope. For darkness is simply the absence of light and there is so much light. Lines are simply the absence of grace and there is so much grace. It is my hope and prayer that the light and the grace of Christ would simply blow you this Christmas — in fact that it would blow you well into 2013, because that would mean that we had the best Christmas ever!