“Speak Lord, for your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:10).
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.
All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being… And the Word became flesh and lived among us,
and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son,
full of grace and truth. (John testified to him and cried out,
“This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks
ahead of me because he was before me.'”) From his fullness we
have all received, grace upon grace.
John 1:1-3a, 14-16
Imagine standing on the shore of the ocean and watching wave after wave of the sea rolling in. It’s awesome! No sooner does one wave rise up, break, and spend itself on the shore than another one rushes to fill its place. And day after day the waves keep rolling in from an endless ocean.
Now imagine the grace of God being like this! There is wave after wave sweeping over you. That is much like how today’s Scripture pictures God’s grace cascading over us: “From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” The phrase “grace upon grace” is even more striking in the original Greek text. Greek scholars say the grammar “denotes a perpetual and rapid succession of blessings, as though there were no interval between the arrival of one blessing and the receipt of the next.” (The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, ed. by Colin Brown) This means “grace pours forth in ever new streams.” A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, ed. Walter Bauer) It is as the apostle Paul concludes about God’s grace for us: “… where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Romans 5:20). Even our sin is no match for the grace of God.
Today’s Scripture reminds that God sent John the Baptist to testify both to Jesus and to the grace poured out on the world through Him: “John testified to him.” His very name, “John”, was given to Him by God to point to the “grace upon grace” in store for the world in Jesus Christ. When John heard his mother calling him he heard something very different from what we hear. He heard his Jewish mother calling him “Johanan”, which today is shortened to our English “John”. His given Hebrew name “Johanan” was a sermon in itself, proclaiming “the Lord is gracious.”
It was God who had instructed John’s parents to go against all Hebrew tradition of naming a child after his father (Zechariah). Instead, they were told to name him “John” (Luke 1:59-60). John would go before Messiah Jesus declaring God’s purpose to pour forth on the world “grace upon grace”. Zechariah, by the revelation of God’s Spirit, announced the mission of his son John:
“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins. By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:76-79).
Ah yes, the Lord is gracious! Author Philip Yancey tells of a conference on comparative religion in which experts from around the world were debating what was unique to Christianity. The discussion went on for a long while until C. S. Lewis happened to drop in. “What’s all the rumpus about?” asked Lewis. The panelists said they were debating Christianity’s unique contribution to the world. “Oh, that’s easy,” Lewis said, “it’s grace.” (Philip Yancey, “What’s So Amazing About Grace?“)
All of our sin! All of our wasted years! All of our wrong turns, pigheaded choices and defiance are met head-on by God’s free, undeserved, un-measureable grace and favor. Wave after wave His grace rolls over us. “From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.”
- What are some ways I am experiencing God’s grace in my life?
- Where might I need the fullness of God’s grace to meet me today?
PALMS DOWN/PALMS UP
For a moment hold your PALMS DOWN in a symbolic gesture of letting go to God your worries for the day, the busyness of the season, and expectations of the way the holidays ought to be. Release all of these concerns to God.
Next, hold your PALMS UP as a symbolic gesture of receiving God’s gifts, provision, and guidance for today.