Today we are talking about the second part of Grace, as Methodism’s founder, John Wesley, taught. Justifying Grace is the experience of being forgiven and adopted into God’s family.
Prevenient Grace definition: "It is divine grace that precedes human decision." God starts showing love to us before we are ever aware of our connection to God. We could also call it "preceding grace" because it precedes anything we have ever done to "earn" grace, salvation, or liberation.
Just like God’s hug for us through one of our community angels, God’s love for us in these rituals offers us an opportunity to experience God through all of our senses. We see God in the elements, we hear God in the words of institution and the sounds of pouring water and tearing bread, we taste and smell God in the taking of communion and feel God’s kiss upon our skin in the waters of baptism.
We are to, everyday, every moment if we can, show to the world a new way of being. One where love is more powerful than drones or protocols. Where compassion holds more sway than polls or pontificating. Where a hug holds more hope than a catchy campaign slogan. And where the grace of the Holy One is more compelling than the propaganda of the Empire.
The melodies and poetry of the Christmas season have been whispering to us of hope, of beauty, and of light. Tonight, after 24 days of anticipation and waiting, we light the Christ candle and celebrate the light coming back into the world.
"Going on to perfection" doesn't mean that we don't make mistakes, it means we are learning to love perfectly as God loves us. It means that when we make mistakes we apologize, seek forgiveness, and try to make up for our errors. It means that we learn to allow God to love others through us even, and especially, when we are having a hard time being in the same room, or - let's be honest - on the same planet, as the other person.
Perhaps you, like me, carry a sadness through this season of holiday bling and charming carols. Maybe you feel the weight of a forgiveness withheld from an estranged family member or old friend. Or you hold a grief, old or new, that leaves you raw each time you experience a nostalgic moment of Christmas. Maybe you are simply missing someone who lives far away and wish that they could be safely home again. Whose voice do you wish you could hear just once more this Christmas? Do not be afraid; for see--I am bringing you good news of great joy…
Peace for our world begins within reach of us. We are taught to walk humbly and love mercy, feed the hungry and welcome the stranger. We do this, we tame our inner wolf, by cultivating within ourselves everyday a peaceful spirit.
Our hope is like that of the prophets: we affirm that God is with those who are poor and oppressed and we speak out against the rich and powerful while at the same time learning the Way of God which the prophets taught and which Jesus ultimately lived out throughout his whole life story. We find hope in Christ and remember that we are the body of Christ, collectively, living out, through our whole life story, the Way of God.
Thy kingdom come, gracious God! Transform our very lives, individually and collectively, that we would trust in your hope for this world rather than trusting the fallible human cravings, fears, hubris, and hierarchies. In a world filled with unfathomable suffering and exquisite beauty, we trust in your goodness.