The whole story of Christmas can be summed up in one word, grace. As I read over the Christmas story time and time again, I’m blown away by God’s grace. The definition of grace is unmerited favor. In layman’s terms, grace means receiving something you don’t deserve. We usually think of grace in terms of the death of Jesus, but grace didn’t just come in His death—it was unmistakably intended by God the Father from the very beginning, even before Jesus’ birth.
The first page of the New Testament lists the genealogy of Jesus. It starts with Abraham, the first of God’s chosen people, and goes all the way to Jesus. Grace is shown through this genealogy. One might think that the Messiah—the Son of a pure and holy God—would come from an unblemished lineage, but this is not the case in God’s plan of grace; some ‘less favored’ people were grafted into His covenant promise (Romans 11). Typically, lineages were traced down through the men as the head of the family, but within the lineage of Jesus, found in Matthew, five women are included: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba (“the wife of Uriah”), and Mary. Among these women, Rahab and Ruth were Gentiles; and Tamar, Rahab, and Bathsheba were women of questionable character. This, in itself is evidence of God’s grace. Jesus— the Savior of all—was to be born through these men, women, adulterers, prostitutes, heroes, and Gentiles. Unmerited favor. Grace.
Reading through Luke’s account of the Christmas story, we are able to take a glimpse into the life of a young Jewish girl named Mary. Mary was pledged to be married to a man named Joseph. We know that she was completely pure in the sense that she had never laid with a man before, but other than that, we do not know much more about Mary. I believe it is safe to assume she was an ordinary girl, living life like all the rest. God had greater plans for her though.
Luke 1:26-33 (ESV)
26In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32He 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 father David, 33and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
Mary did nothing to earn God’s favor. She wasn’t sinless (Romans 3:23). She was even puzzled after the angel called her the “favored one” (vs. 28). Yet, she was told “you have found favor with God” (vs. 30). Did Mary do anything to deserve this precious gift that God bestowed on her? No. It was complete unmerited favor. The Greek word used for this word “favor” (vs. 30) is charis, which literally means grace. This same word spoken to Mary, by the angel Gabriel, was spoken in John 1, about the baby that Mary bore.
John 1:14; 16-17 (ESV)
14And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 16And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
The reason for the season is grace. Unmerited favor, grace upon grace, was offered to all through the coming of this baby named Jesus. This Christmas, will you receive the greatest gift ever given? You have a choice, and whether you realize it or not, you will have to accept or deny that choice. Will you accept God’s grace, His unmerited favor on your life? Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:28). John 1:12 tells us, that all who receive Him, all who believe in His name, He gives the right to become children of God. This is the greatest gift ever given. It’s already been given. All we have to do is open it and receive it. Unmerited favor. Grace.