In my church’s Sunday worship, following the Confession of Sin and the Assurance of Pardon, a leader invites the congregation to share signs of grace and peace: “As forgiven and reconciled people, let us offer signs of grace and peace to one another.” What ensues is nothing short of an explosion of goodwill, grace, and peace. The rest of the service is put on hold as love breaks out among us.
Paul finishes his words of greeting to the Romans with the offer of grace and peace. The churches in Rome sit in the midst of a great pagan culture. Little gods (family gods, local gods, gods of the empire) permeate the hearts and homes of many. Grace and peace are not given or even asked for in the worship of little gods. Only Jesus the Christ brings the grace and peace of God. Paul offers grace and peace to the Romans through Christ.
Often, as I stand and watch the people of my congregation greet each other warmly and kindly with words of grace and peace, I wonder why we do not replicate this act outside the walls, down the street, into the marketplace, and around the world. What do we get so caught up in that we forget the grace and peace that breaks into the world in the birth and life of Jesus the Christ?
Soon we will gather in celebration of Jesus’ birth. We will light candles and sing glory to God, raise alleluias to the highest heavens. Then we will go out into the dark, cold night. Exposure to grace and peace can change the way we greet the darkness of the world. Words of reconciliation, grace, and peace bear hope and open doors of possibility that through us the world will be healed.
May the grace and peace of Christ be offered to the world through me today and every day. Amen.
Isaiah is sent to the king of Judah to declare a prophecy of a future birth through a virgin. The boy will be called Immanuel, “God is with us.” The psalmist cries out to God asking for an end to the suffering of the people. He believes that this will occur through a “son of man,” an expression that Jesus later uses to describe himself. Paul’s opening to Romans roots the gospel in the Hebrew scriptures. Jesus comes from the line of David and fulfills the things foretold. To understand Jesus, we must understand the Hebrew scriptures. Matthew recounts the visitation of an angel to Joseph to tell him of the coming birth of a son. Matthew interprets this birth as a fulfillment of this week’s reading from Isaiah 7.
Read Isaiah 7:10-16. How does Isaiah’s prophecy continue to speak to you today? How do you hope for Christ’s coming?
Read Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19. Recall a time when you have relied on hope for God’s restoration.
Read Romans 1:1-7. What would it mean to add “servanthood” to your list of life goals?
Read Matthew 1:18-25. How is your life different for having listened to God’s call?
Respond by posting a prayer.
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