Inspiration: Merry Christmas and Happy Easter!
We have ended our Happy Lent time of preparation to celebrate the second most honored Christian holiday. Sometimes we try to figure out which is more important: Christmas or Easter?
If it wasn’t for the birth of Jesus, there could not have been a death of Jesus ... nor the Resurrection. Yet without the death and Resurrection, what would be the point of the miraculous birth?
We are on the same circular path as asking which came first, the chicken or the egg?
Speaking of eggs reminds me of the Easter Bunny that delivers baskets of treats to all the good little girls and boys. Just like before Christmas, there is the promise of judgment and consequences for those who aren’t well behaved.
The Scripture passage we use before Christmas can be the same one to use before Easter. It says, “He sees you when you’re sleeping. He knows when you’re awake. He knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good, for goodness sake!”
Just kidding! That passage isn’t in the Bible, but we sure like to enforce it as if it was.
How often people say, “If you’re good, and you live a good life, you’ll go to heaven.” Just as quickly, someone will counter with a quote that says you must believe in your heart and say with your lips that Jesus is Lord in order to go to heaven.
I want to jump up and down and say that neither of those ideas is the formula for going to heaven. Going to heaven has nothing to do with living a good life or saying the right words. The really good news is that none of us is good enough to earn our way to heaven through our actions or our words. Works-righteousness is dead!
Empty or full, the right words are not the ticket. No ticket is even needed. It is simply out of God’s great love and the gift of grace that we receive the gift of eternal life. We don’t pay for gifts, unless it is from someone who expects to get something in return. Very few gifts are actually freely given, for the least that is expected is a thank you note!
Next time you write a check to someone as a gift, enclose a note that says “endorsing the check will be the only thanks that is needed!” Can you really give something that freely without secretly hoping to receive a thank you?
Other often quoted Bible verses are: “Charity begins at home.” (Oops, not in the Bible!) and “God helps those who help themselves,” (also not in the Bible!), as well as “Money is the root of all evil.” (In the Bible but misquoted as we leave out the love part. “The love of money is the root of all evil …”) “There but for the grace of God go I.” (John Bradford, not the Bible.)
The bottom line is that God does give us standards and ideas about goodness. But the topsy turvy gift through Jesus Christ is that everything ... everything comes down to the gift of unconditional love and acceptance through the gift of grace. The world is given radical hospitality through Jesus Christ.
None of us can get it right — not through actions, not through words, not through faith. It is a gift from God that requires no thank you note. Now that is something to jump up and down about! RSVPs are appreciated but not necessary. Just enjoy the Son’s shine!