The season of Advent begins this Sunday. We begin a new sermon series that will explore the birth of Jesus, based on the first carols of Christmas.
We start with the words of the angel Gabriel to a young teenager named Mary. Gabriel told Mary, “Hail, you who are full of grace! God is with you!” (Luke 1:28)
These words became the foundation of a humble Catholic prayer that is frequently set to a tune composed in 1825 by Franz Schubert. Here is an English translation of some of the Latin lyrics: “Hail Mary, full of grace . . . The Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women and blessed. Blessed is the fruit of your womb, Your womb, Jesus.”
Grace is God’s kindness, God’s love, God’s care, God’s work on our behalf, God’s blessings, God’s gifts, God’s goodness, God’s salvation. But it is more than that. It is these things when they are undeserved. The giving of grace – of love and blessing and kindness when we don’t deserve them – has the power to change our lives.
Grace is at the center of what God was doing in Christmas. The child to be born of Mary would embody and incarnate grace. His message would be a message of grace. His life would demonstrate grace to sinners, tax collectors, and prostitutes. They had been taught that there was no place for them in the synagogue, that God’s judgment and wrath were upon them. Jesus devoted his life to showing them that it was God’s love, mercy and kindness that were offered to them. Jesus showed them grace.
2,000 years later, God’s grace is for you and me, too!
Grateful for grace!