3 Ways, 2 Words, 1 WOW! by Phil

For kids, Christmas is a magical season of excitement, surprises and wonder.  For us adults, it can lose it's luster and add more items to our already full To Do List.  Let's see if we can't bring a little "Wow" back to Christmas with the help of our old friend, the apostle Paul.

You were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient. All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else. - Ephesians 2:1-3

I love how Paul doesn't sugar coat the truth.  We sin, sin brings God's wrath (death - Romans 6:23), so we are dead.  In other words, God is the windshield and we are the bug. Why? The answer is in verse 3 - "by nature."  The word translated "nature" can be used three ways. It can mean "origin" or "birth," as in you didn't choose it, you were born into it.  It can also mean what is normal the world around us, as in "everybody's doing it" or "that's just the way things are."  Finally, it can mean willful disobedience.  You knew it was wrong and you did it any way. No excuses, you blew it. In other words - sin.

So which of these three fits you? Yup, all the above. You can blame your parents, you can blame society, and you can blame yourself, the result is the same - guilty as charged.  But don't stop reading, the good part is just around the corner.

"But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ--by grace you have been saved- and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. - Ephesians 2:4-7

Those first two words may be my favorite in all scripture - "But God."  That's the most beautiful 'but' I've every seen (don't tell Pam). We didn't earn God's mercy, we don't deserve God's love, but He gives it anyway.  In fact, his grace is so huge it will take all the "ages to come" just for him to show it to us.  If that doesn't make you shout "Glory to God in the highest" with the heavenly host, you've been wading through too much sheep poop.  (See that little Christmas story shepherd reference there?  Pretty clever, eh?)  Speaking of Christmas, that comes in the next very familiar verses.

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God- not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life. - Ephesians 2:8-10

A big part of Christmas is gifts, and the greatest gift you'll every receive is God's gift of salvation. But unlike that last minute rush to the store on Christmas Eve, God prepared your gift "beforehand."  Nothing surprises God.  Before He even began creating this world, He knew the choice Adam and Eve would make in the garden. He knew the state the world would be in today, and He knew every wrong choice you would ever make - even the ones you haven't made yet. And out of His great love, he made a plan to bring you and I back to him, wipe out those sins and restore our rightful place as His children, now and forever.  "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life." - John 3:16

God made a way to pay our sin debt, rescue us from the grip of this world and bring us home to Him.  He sent His son, born in a humble Bethlehem manger, on a night we still celebrate over 2000 years later.  When we begin to grasp the seriousness of our sin and the magnitude of God's sacrifice, there are no words glorious enough to express it.  The best I can do is "WOW!"

So this Christmas when you read the Christmas story in one of the gospels, skip ahead to Ephesians 2 and remember the reason for the season.  Don't let the kids have all the fun this Christmas, you can get excited, too. Why not? You've got the best gift of all. 

Merry Christmas,

Phil and Pam

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