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As we approach and go through the Christmas season we are providing short devotions to enable us to focus for a few moments each day on the real meaning of Christmas and look forward to his second coming. If you've missed some days click here to see the series so far or subscribe.

Day 11 : John 1:17  Grace and truth (again) 

Maybe John repeated grace and truth (see v14) again because he knows how we struggle to live by them, but (and you can check it if you like) this is the last time that the word ‘grace’ appears in John’s gospel. Of course although John might not use the word again, he’s given us the category, and we will see it fleshed out in manifold, glorious ways as people encounter Jesus. 

Why does John bring up Moses? Well it’s not because the Mosaic Law was a bad thing – indeed the Law may even be the ‘grace already given’ from v16. Why Moses? There’s lots that could be said, but God’s Law was (and is) good – if used as it was meant to be used, at the time that it was meant to be used. It was a good gift from God and still speaks to us today. 

But what John wants us to latch onto, is that Jesus fulfils, completes and surpasses the Law of Moses. Jesus is superior to Moses.  

One writer puts it like this:

Moses points to grace, but Jesus performs grace. 

Moses reports the words of God. Jesus is the Word of God. 

The law mirrors the light of God. Jesus is the light of God.

But it's ironic isn't it, how the commercial version of Christmas misses the whole point of Christmas?  For example, we have 'Elf on the Shelf' who (slightly scarily) hides in your home to surreptitiously spy on you to let Santa know who’s naughty and who’s nice. If you are good, you will get good things (and presumably vice versa). But think about it, you can't get further from the true meaning of Christmas than that! We’re offered a gift that isn't at all dependent on our performance. It is not based on whether or not we've been bad or good (however you’re meant to measure them!), it’s simply the grace and truth that comes through Jesus Christ.

What would it mean to celebrate and enjoy a Christmas characterised or shaped by grace?

Dan Steel, 01/12/2022

Day 10 : John 1:15-16  Grace upon grace 

My perpetual danger as a Christian is to ‘domesticate’ Jesus; to shrink him a little and maybe make him a bit more manageable and believable, a little less extraordinary and challenging.

Perhaps it’s that our own heads and hearts struggle to grasp the truths, or even it’s as we seek to explain him to others in a way that sounds a little more credible?   

Whatever the answer, in these two verses John seeks to  s  t  r  e  t  c  h  our understanding of Jesus once more. First when we encounter John the Baptist again as he testifies, crying out about Jesus’ greatness and pre-existence. Even though John was born before Jesus, he knows that Jesus came before him and so surpasses him. It’s a similar claim that Jesus himself will make later on in the gospel, and where we perhaps miss the force of this, Jesus’ opponents didn’t - they recognise that he is claiming divinity, they think it’s blasphemy:

“Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” At this, they picked up stones to stone him… (John 8:58-59)

The second way that John seeks to stretch our grasp of Jesus is his claim that it’s out of the fulness of Jesus that we, as his children, receive grace.

This is not the first time John has mentioned grace in this introduction: back in v14 he explained how completely dependent upon grace we are as we become children of God (it’s not something we can work up in us, or earn or deserve), but here the emphasis seems to be almost upon our ongoing need for grace as we live the Christian life.  This is abundant grace. Enough grace for each day. It’s as if he’s saying we need a ‘once and for ever’ grace for when we initially are adopted into his family, but then an ‘each and every morning’ grace as we start each new day with all its (known and unknown) challenges. His mercies are indeed new every morning which is great news in a world that is still full of sin, suffering and sorrow. 

What are you facing at the moment?

Go to him for the grace you need. He promises not to turn you away empty-handed.

Dan Steel, 30/11/2022

Day 9 : John 1:14  Full of Grace and Truth 

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.  John 1v14
Yesterday we saw that God’s glory was visible in Christ in a way that hadn’t been possible through the tabernacle. The truth is, the people of God had been ‘starved’ of God’s glory (and so in some senses his presence) since they had been exiled from the land. When the temple had been sacked God’s glory had departed and, even though they had built and dedicated a new temple, his glory had not returned… until now. In the person of Jesus.

Now we don’t have to ‘meet’ with God through a physical building (though buildings are good and important, and it would be nice to meet in one this season...!), now we meet with him through a person. A man.

And did you notice how this man came to us?
             …from the Father, full of grace and truth.

In a world where love and acceptance are very often conditional and we constantly feel the need to match up to expectations and standards, Jesus comes to us full of grace. Not expecting us to perform. Not saying we have to earn his love, but rather that he accepts us because of what he is like, rather than what we are like. Because of what he has done, rather than what can do. This year of lockdown for many of us has been especially hard because our identity that comes from activity and ‘doing’ has been stripped from us and that’s exposed insecurities. But Jesus comes to us full of grace. 

And in a world of polarised opinions, where we very often struggle to know what ‘truth’ is, with conflicting claims and opaque arguments and statements, here is one who comes full of truth. How refreshing! Someone we can really trust. Someone with words that we can build upon, who’s not in it for themselves but rather that we might have the life that we were made for. 

This is what life is about. 

What a glorious truth to help shape us, and our plans for Christmas.

Dan Steel, 29/11/2022

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