Friday, December 24, 2010

He Throws It Around Like a Drunken Sailor

Christmas is about grace.  Not the kind of grace that you sip because it is in short supply, rare, and hard to come by... no, the grace of Christmas is like the bar tab of a drunken sailor -- it is excessive and lavish and scandalously poured out.  But that does not make it cheap!! It is like the wad of cash flashed to a world in poverty and then tossed out into the crowd as if there were no end to it all.  God is not stingy with this grace but remarkably generous and this makes the surprise of grace into a scandal and affront to human sensibility.

We would expect God to be circumspect with this grace -- to make sure that it flowed only to the right kind of people and then only in dribs and drabs.  But God is not like this.  He dishes it out as if it were common -- even though it is the most special of all commodities and the richest of all the treasures the earth has known.  He shows this grace by keeping His promise to people wayward in their piety, wearing only the filthiest rags of righteousness, stinking the awful odor of death, and whose hearts and minds have been so closed off to the reality of their plight they do not see or smell or realize who they are or what they have become.  They look into the mirror and see in clouded vision a decent chap staring back at them -- not perfect but not so bad either.

It is completely unreasonable of this God to be gracious when He has every right to stick to justice and let justice condemn the whole lot of us with one fell swoop of judgment.  But that is not how this God operates.  His justice is cut with mercy as He has determined to become His people's Savior from before the first terrible indiscretion and sin led them down the garden path to doubt, disease, despair, and death.

He darkens the door of our neighborhoods by being born in the alley, in a stable, among the animals within the dirt of their domicile and in the stinking dung of their latrine.  A little hay becomes the bed that should have belonged to a King.  A few shepherds should have been the whole world in kneeling adoration.  Angels sang in sweetness what a world should have proclaimed with gusto.  A Virgin Mother from nowhere's ville and a betrothed husband whose maiden was first the Mother of God before she was his wife -- where did He get this cast of characters?

Ah, but He came to us who were made by Him and we knew Him not.  The lavish and excessive grace of His birth made us fearful more than it bade us come -- what kind of God would be so foolish with His precious grace and what kind of God would stoop so low for a clearly undeserving people? 

In the end the thing that makes Christmas so great is the same thing that makes it so darn hard to take seriously -- it is grace beyond all measure, liberally applied, poured out in richest flowing stream...  That is what we meet in the Manger, what we see in the cross, what we find in the tomb missing its Lord... God grant us the Holy Spirit that this relentless and reckless grace may find in us faith to receive it, hearts to rejoice over it, gratitude to give thanks for it, and courage to share it with others with the same seemingly reckless abandon that God has given it to us...

A Blessed Nativity to all my readers.... Pastor Peters +


Anonymous said...

Grace is like the "bar tab of a
drunken sailor". Real classy
comparison for the Christmas Day
celebration of our Savior's birth.
This type of tasteless remark is why
blogging burnout is a serious
problem for some clergy.

J.G.F. said...

Obviously, Annonymous, you did not READ what Pr. Peters posted.

Blessed Christmass! And thank you for your insight, Larry.

Anonymous said...

I really have to come to the defense of Rev. Peters on this one. When our Lord talked about the Father’s gifts, He said, “You who are evil know how to give gifts to your children, … how much more will my Father in heaven …”. We who are evil cannot imagine the full extent of the lavish grace of God; we can only get a hint by comparing it to the excesses of our evil, because we are so much better at being evil than at being good. That is, I believe, what Rev. Peters was doing. And, of course, pointing out that at the height of our evil, when we are like the drunken sailor, He still does not abandon us.

Peace and Joy to all on this holy night,
George A. Marquart

PS.: Just so nobody starts gathering wood for the pyre, no, we should not sin so that grace might abound.

Pastor Peters said...

From our perspective, that is exactly how grace appears -- it is not the way of man but only the way of God, careless, reckless, relentless... that is the grace of God for who can make sense out of the King of the Universe who is laid in the straw of a manger in a stable? Tasteless? I guess that is a matter of perspective. But God's grace is not tame or docile. It is as wild as the lion Aslan or a man clothed in animal skin eating locusts and wild honey screaming about the kingdom of God is at hand. My point was that we try to box God up, dress Him up, tame Him, and make Him reasonable... but it cannot be done and God will not allow it... Merry Christmas! George and John got it...

Anonymous said...

God's grace is like the free-spending
and reckless New York Yankees front
office of the Steinbreiner family.
They throw money at free agents and
have over $200,000 million payroll
and yet won only 2 world series in
the last 10 years. Their payroll is
so high they had to pay a luxury tax
of 70 million dollars last season.