Written Sermons & Bible Studies

Gift of Mercy: For a Disobedient World

Many years ago, before the first Christmas, Eve ate a forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden and Adam joined her in tasting the fruit. The fruit proved very tempting. One of the main reasons it was tempting is because of its forbidden nature. Humans like to disobey rules. The very act of telling us “No” creates a need in us to disobey. Think I am overstating? Consider the sign a house painter puts on a fresh coat of paint that says, “Do Not Touch – Wet Paint.” If there was no sign, we would all walk by and never touch the wall. The minute the sign goes up, we feel an irresistible urge to touch the wall. Is it wet? The sign not to touch makes us want to touch it. If you are like me, you even hope it is wet. There is a satisfaction to the paint being wet. Then I get to wipe it on my jeans.

If you think I am overreacting, consider a couple more examples:

  • In prohibition, booze was illegal. Up cropped speakeasies and bootlegging. My great grandfather was a bootlegger.
  • We are instructed to read terms and conditions of online services. Did you read them? Or did you just click “I Agree?”

As people, we like to disobey rules and we like to disregard authority. Fortunately, for people like me who rebel, Jesus came to earth to show us grace and rescue us. I’d like to read the Scripture passage of the angel appearing to Mary and telling her she would become pregnant with the baby Jesus. The angel says His destiny is to assume the throne of King David, but more than that, He would be Holy. Jesus wields a different kind of authority. One that promotes devotion over temptation.

Luke 1:30-35 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus.

He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 

Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.

Jesus, God who became human will be called Son of the Most High God. He is the answer to God’s promise to David. He will become an eternal king on his ancestor’s throne. He will rule over the house of Jacob, and his kingdom will have no end. To rule over the house of Jacob, means that he will rule over the whole earth because God promised that the king of God’s people would rule the nations.

Psalms 2:7-8

I will tell of the decree of the LORD:
He said to me, “You are my son;
today I have begotten you.
Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,

And the ends of the earth your possession.

At Christmas, we celebrate the birth of King Jesus, who has authority over the nations. We celebrate the birth of the Son of God. What kind of King will he be?

Before we look at the Infant King of Christmas, I want to share a story about a little boy and a merciful painter. In a San Antonio neighborhood lived Daniel, a house painter who enjoyed making homes beautiful. Daniel’s work transformed houses into places of warmth and comfort. He worked with a sense of purpose and a keen eye for detail.

One sunny morning, as Daniel was preparing to paint the exterior of a charming cottage, he decided to hang a sign on the front gate that read, “Wet Paint, Please Do Not Touch.” This sign serves not only as a warning but also as an invitation to disobedient humanity to touch the paint. As Daniel painted the cottage’s wooden walls, a curious boy, Tommy, strolled by. Tommy possessed boundless curiosity and an insatiable desire to explore everything around him. When he saw the sign, curiosity got the better of him. With a mischievous grin, he reached out and ran his fingers along the wet paint, leaving streaks of color behind.

Daniel, who had been keeping a watchful eye on his work, didn’t react with anger or frustration. Instead, he approached Tommy with a warm and friendly smile. He knelt down beside the boy and said, “Hey there, young friend! It looks like you couldn’t resist the wet paint, could you?” Tommy looked a bit embarrassed and nodded. Daniel continued, “I understand how tempting it can be to touch things, especially when you’re told not to.” But you see, I put up that sign to make sure the paint dries evenly and looks its best. So, how about you help me paint?

Tommy’s eyes sparkled with curiosity as he listened to Daniel’s words. Daniel reached into his toolbox and handed Tommy a paintbrush. “Why don’t you help me paint this bench over here?” Daniel suggested. “You can be my assistant for the day, and together we’ll make this bench look great.” Tommy eagerly accepted the brush, and under Daniel’s guidance, they worked together to paint the bench. Daniel shared stories of his experiences and how his work made houses beautiful. Daniel showed Tommy grace that fine day.

As the day went on, Tommy not only learned to paint, but he also learned to follow instructions and to respect work. As he painted, Tommy learned a new skill and what it took to paint a house. As the sun began to set, Tommy left the cottage with a smile on his face, from a day well spent with Daniel and making a home beautiful. 

Tommy became a regular helper to Daniel, and Daniel became a mentor to Tommy as they worked on various painting projects together.

The Christmas story is like the story of Daniel and Tommy. God saw that people had difficulty following the Torah, the Law of Moses written in the Old Testament. It seemed like even the most faithful couldn’t follow the law. Those who tried the hardest to follow the Law of Moses ended up hurting people with it. The more they doubled down on following the letter of the law, the more they broke the spirit of the law. The more they tried, the farther they were from God and God’s will. The law didn’t work. People needed a new way of living with God.

People needed the word of God to dwell with them. They needed to internalize the law, for it to become one with them. They needed the gifts that God intended through the law without needing to follow every law. People needed grace.

For this to happen, God needed to become one of us. God needed to become human. God became incarnate in the body of a human baby. The Christmas story is the story of God joining with humanity. At Christmas, God forever placed God’s mercy in our heart and in our Spirit. The law was always designed to show us God’s mercy, and on Christmas Day, grace appeared. Now that God has become one of us, we can truly receive God’s love, grace, and purpose with God as our Father, Christ as our Savior, and the Holy Spirit as our provider.Top of Form The Law came to earth and dwelt among us. The Word became one of us. God became a person.

John 1:1-5

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.He was in the beginning with God.All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

Consider for a moment the gift of mercy we receive on Christmas day. Instead of judgment for our disobedient, curious, self-centered nature, we receive the gift of mercy and grace from a loving God.

Like Daniel, who kindly teaches Tommy to join him in painting the house, Christ kindly asks us to stop running our fingers through the paint of life. Instead, Christ calls us to help him paint the world with grace, love, and mercy. Here at Place of Grace we paint the world with love, and we do it well.

I ask you this Advent season, can we become master painters of love and mercy to the people in our community? Daniel didn’t yell at Tommy. He didn’t correct him. Instead, Daniel invited Tommy to join him. He asked Tommy to work alongside him. He welcomed Tommy into his world. Daniel was a master painter, and Tommy was a kid, yet Daniel wasn’t impatient. He wasn’t a perfectionist. He guided Tommy and encouraged Tommy. He didn’t judge Tommy as an impetuous, disrespectful, disobedient kid. Instead, he embraced him and became his mentor, and Tommy became his disciple.

Doesn’t that sound like Christ with us? Make no mistake, the Christmas story is a story of the coming of a King. The Messiah of God receives life. He is enthroned on the throne of David and on the throne of all the nations of all the earth. He is honor and the title of the Son of God. Jesus is born to reign. But Jesus is also the Son of Man. He is born to serve and to be one of us. He is born to show us the Way of Life. We, like Tommy, are impetuous, disobedient, and disrespectful. Yet, Jesus comes with mercy and offering us grace. Jesus does not pound us with the law. Instead, Jesus forgives us our transgressions and extends mercy and grace. Jesus is not impatient. He does not expect perfection. Instead, he gives us his perfection. Jesus guides us, encourages us, and offers us grace, peace, and joy. Jesus offers to mentor us and for us to walk with him as disciples or apprentices in life.

This Christmas season, the greatest gift we can share is the mercy of Christ. Here are three ways we can share mercy as Jesus’s disciples.

  1. Listen patiently, be slow to speak. We can listen instead of needing to express our views. We can respond with kindness and understanding when tempted to argue or just avoid someone. Like Jesus, we can prioritize our relationships, especially with loved ones, by showing grace, patience, and willingness to compromise.
  2. Withhold judgment and show empathy. We can be an example of grace and empathy in our communications. We can have convictions, but our earthly convictions matter much less than our heavenly call to extend the grace of Christ to a world in need of mercy. People are watching, your attitude can inspire those around you to adopt a more gracious approach.
  3. Be there for people. So many are lonely and hurting during the holidays. Jesus entered our world to be with us. Jesus is all in. 100%. Let’s give generously of our time and friendship this holiday season.

As you prepare for Christmas, remember the extent and depth of mercy offered to you and the world on Christmas day. God accepted the failure of humanity to follow God’s laws. Instead of condemnation, God sent love and grace in the form of a little baby. Christmas day was the greatest act of mercy in the universe. Can we now extend that mercy to our fellow brothers and sisters? Yes church, we already do extend mercy. I am asking you to go further to become more like Christ.

Lord, in closing, as we celebrate communion and the depth of your gift of mercy for us, we ask that you continue your work on our hearts. May we extend your mercy to the world around us. May we actively seek out ways to be more merciful. May you find peace and joy in the mercy we share, even when it costs us, even when we feel like being unfriendly. As we remember your entry into this world and your tortuous exit from this world, may we share your body and blood in remembrance of your life with us. May we become more like you as we share your supper with each other. In the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

About Pastor Tim

Tim Holmes

Senior Pastor

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