Thursday, December 20, 2012

Full, and yet fuller, of grace

On being full of grace

The funeral service says (quoting the spirit of the psalm) "In the midst of life we are in death", i
Iff not 'death' then we have a fair bit of trouble and mess.
In all this comes a message 
that God deals graciously with us.

Some Readings for this fourth and last week of Advent...some readings are: Micah 5:2-5; Luke 2; Psalm 80:1-7; Hebrews 10:5-10; Luke 1:39-55 
For me this season, whilst not being easy.
is always one that is rich 
in experience
and encounters.
We often have to dialogue with 
diffiicult things
particularly death and dying;

we all have to engage with
the complexity of our human relationships;

and there is a richness of 
secular and religious imagery that abounds

Amidst all this there are the wonderful words, 
spoken and sung.
with which, after 60 years,
I am well-familiar. As we all are

This is necessary,
but not always positive;
some people (research tells us) find Christmas very stressful.

Moving on 
One of the recurring themes of Advent is GRACEThis is a "buzz word", of course,
and easily glossed over.
Grace is about the free gift of God
of life itself.
God gives himself, his life to us
in these and many other ways
all the time
powerfully, intimately, gently, abundantly.

The readings point us to a number of different aspects of this.
God gives his grace to the world
We live in a gift of a world.

As our eyes turn to Bethlehem
we are also reminded how human beings
sometimes are hell-bent [advised use of words!] on destroying the giftedness
we have received from God.
Pray for peace in Bethlehem
that they may know the peace that Jesus bring.

Not easy work

The writer of Hebrews reminds us
that the era of grace in which we now live
is a new era
In theological terms, 
we are in a new era
because the death and resurrection of Jesus
have put us in a new place.
What this might remind us of is that
grace does not just happen accidently
it is as a response of God's deliberate action
While God's grace is abundant and plentiful
It will not just overwhelm us in in our lives
we need to open ourselves to it
and also be responsive to it.
That is; Grace is given, freely given
do we accept this free gift of God's love.

As you reflect on these last 3 or 4 weeks 
and the richness of experience
what is God calling you to respond to.
Have you responded? 
Will you respond?

It is likely that we see the gracious gift of people.
Have we taken time to think on this?
How is God calling us to respond to those who he gives us.
Not always easy, 
but part of the way that we are called to grow into the personhood 
that God has in store for us.

The theme character for this week is MaryIt is interesting to hear the classical words
that often refer to her.
They are contained in the angel's greeting to her 
in that house in Nazareth
as she goes about her daily business.
"Hail Mary full of grace"
Don't let anti-Catholic prejudice blind us to the fact that these words come straight from the Bible themselves.
What the angel says to Mary, God says to all of us.
Hail full of grace!!
Each one of us has a life full of grace.

It is not the easy cheap grace that titillates us, 
or makes us feel tipsy
Sometimes it is deeply sad and confronting,
ALWAYS it is drawing us closer to God
and making us more fully human.

What has God been saying to you this season?
Where are you called to respond 
ever more and more freely to God's giftedness
is God saying, perhaps, 
....there is someone you need to forgive, 
or someone whose forgiveness you need to seek

Does God set before you a lonely person 
to whom you can be a grace?

Is there a situation that you need to resolve?
Is there a freedom that is summoning you?

Will you take this gift, this offer of freedom and embrace it?

As Mary is confronted by the Angel...Hail full of grace!
and as she responds...saying be it done to me according to your word

so the angel says to her this new promise, The Lord be with you
The gift, the grace, the promise of Christmas
as we open ourselves to the 

sometimes, often, 
maybe even usually difficult gift of grace
we encounter ImmanuelGod with us
The gift is here, accept it...full of grace
And May the Lord be with you.

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