12/1/02, A1B

“Grace That Has Been, Is, and Will Forever Be”
I Corinthians 1: 3-9

(3) "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (4) I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, (5) that in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and in all knowledge, (6) even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you, (7) so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, (8) who will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. (9) God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. ( I Corinthians 1: 3-9, NASV)

We sometimes use the expression, "As slow as Christmas," when something seems to be taking forever. When we are waiting in the return line at the department store and folks seem to be working at half speed we might remark: "This line is a slow as Christmas!" I remember how slow Christmas Day was as a child. Do children still have their "Christmas List" made out in October? We did when I was a kid.

Well, our waiting is almost over. As of today, the first Sunday in Advent, Christmas is just twenty-five short days away. Thanksgiving is past. The Yellow Jackets and Bulldogs have fought their annual After Thanksgiving Day Game. Indeed, its time to turn our Christmas preparations up a notch. Our many Christmases past will soon be new again.

Our church is ready. Christmas decorations, including a beautiful tree, were put in place last Sunday evening. Our Choir will present their Annual Christmas Program on the fifteenth. Our "Festival of Christmas Art" will be in the gymnasium that same afternoon and evening. This year we have invited Christians from Bethlehem to display and offer for sale, genuine hand carved Bethlehem olive wood nativity scenes and other pieces of Christian art. Since tourists can not travel to the place of Jesus' birth this year, these young men have come to America. Our Annual Christmas Eve Candlelight Communion will be at 6:00 p.m. Our Sunday School Classes, and organizations, will be having Christmas Parties. We hope that all three of our weekly worship services will be meaningful. The intent of all that we will do is to re-create a deep sense of wonder and welcome to the Babe of Bethlehem, again this year.

There is a sense in which our waiting on Christmas ends when we step into Advent. It is a time of preparation for the Birth of the Christ Child, but it is also a celebration of the wonderful event that we know is going to occur again, just as it always does. So, that which we think of as being slow has overtaken us by surprise. The baby Jesus has caught us off guard; we are already into that which we thought we were waiting for. The best part of Christmas is happening already. Christmas in America is more like the tradition of "The Twelve Days of Christmas." In most of our homes the long Christmas spirit begins before Thanksgiving and extends past New Year's Day.

Is this not just like God? He catches us unawares. In the hour when we have not been looking for Him, He has already joined our joyous "Thanksgiving-Advent-Christmas-New Year's Extended Season." He whom we were waiting for is already here; helping us to thoughtfully await what is already here, and has been.

Is this not the way that the Grace of God has always come to us? God the Father's efforts, as recorded in the Old Testament, were to create and form a relationship with us who are in His own image. The massive work of the 39 books of the Old Testament, written over thousands of years, preserve the story that leads up to God's greatest work in sending His Son to be born of Mary in a borrowed stable in the off the main road, Little Town of Bethlehem. Christmas is a story that has happened in the long ago. Yet, through the continuing presence of the Father and the Son as the Holy Spirit, Christmas becomes "The Grace That Has Been, and Is." Furthermore, the Holy Spirit behind the Greatest story ever told, will insure that Christmas will forever be our eternal contemporary. We might say that, Christmas is God stepping down the stairway of Heaven with a baby in His arms, forever and forever!

Advent is not just a time to look back, or to look inside of ourselves, as important as that is, it is also a time to look forward to what God is still someday going to do in Christ's Return. God's Grace is incessantly continuing forever without interruption. We are caught in between two Advents.

I have carried my little sermon title, which was printed in our newsletter last Monday, to another level, "The Grace That Has Been, Is, and Will Forever Be." In order to try to understand this story so filled with wonder that only God could have written it, we also have to begin to think on another level. The wondrous story of Jesus' Birth requires imagination on our part to be able to catch on. His story is beyond nuts and bolts. It is similar to the many mythical stories of various cultures of "dying and rising" kings; with the exception that The Christmas Story is a true mythical type tale borne out in history. It is God's story that has been actually lived out in the real world of a baby being born to poor parents in a remote village, who is the Son of God and Savior of the World. Just as stories, ancient and contemporary, capture our imaginations; so does the birth of the Babe.

In ancient Scandinavian mythology, Balder was the handsome young Prince of light and joy. The powers of the dark underworld killed Balder. Pleas were made to the dark world for Balder to be resurrected and the agreement was made that if everyone in the world would weep for him, he could return from death. Everyone did, except for just one evil giant, and Balder could not return. Our Christmas story is unique in that it is a true story that is attempting to grab our hearts and lives and enable the eternal Christ to come alive in us today.

God's Grace was born in time, it is extended today, and can be ours evermore!

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor

12/1/02, A1B