Dawn of Redeeming Grace

Dear Friends,
With the dawn of Redeeming Grace.
What do those three words mean – dawn, redeeming, grace?
In the movie, An American Tail: Fievel Goes West, in the closing scene, the old bloodhound sheriff, Wylie Burp, says to young Fivel as he hands him his badge, “One man’s sunset is another man’s dawn.”
Dawn is a beginning – a new start.
I’m not a morning person, but what I do love about getting up early is the opportunity to witness the dawn.
This is a great children’s book, written and illustrated by first-grade students about the tragic attack on our country on September 11, 2001. It’s called September 12th: We Knew Everything Would Be All Right. The book ends, saying, “We knew everything would be all right because the stars and moon came out and America went to sleep. And the next morning the sun (Son) came up again. (NOT) The End.”
Along with the sun (Son), dawn is a rising up (a resurrection). One can literally watch the dawn of the morning pierce the darkness, as it illuminates the horizon with the light of the sun (Son) – transforming the world before our very eyes. That’s what the dawn is – the illuminating of the darkness.
So, with that understanding then, according to John’s opening lines of his Gospel, Jesus is our dawn – for John writes in verses 4 -5, “What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people, for the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”
Every Christmas we celebrate that God came into our world – as our dawn – as a new beginning – as the light – to illuminate and pierce our darkness – in order to reassure and to help us see clearly once again. For centuries, the dawn has been a source of reassurance that life continues – that everything will be alright. That we have arisen to see another day. In John’s opening lines, we hear of the presence of Christ from the beginning of time when “let there be light” constituted the first dawn in our faith story. The presence of God in human form is the “dawn” of redeeming grace.
Jesus is our dawn, sent to redeem.
Webster’s Dictionary says redeem is to gain or regain possession of something in exchange for payment.
Traditionally or historically, the word redeem means “to buy out,” used specifically in reference to the purchase of a slave’s freedom.
In the late 1850s, a successful businessman from England visited St. Louis. As he walked around the city, he came upon a slave auction on the courthouse steps. Among those chained to be auctioned, he noticed one man, much bigger and stronger than the others. Unlike the rest, this man held his head high while looking straight ahead—as still as a statue. And a statue he might have been, except for the tears that ran down his face. When the man stood to be sold, the price quickly went to a thousand dollars. The Englishman called out, “Fifteen hundred dollars,” and other bids stopped. (If the rate of inflation over these last 150 years has averaged 3% per year, that would be worth almost $110,000 today!) After paying the accountant, the englishman, followed a few paces behind by his new “property”, walked off. After they turned a corner and were out of sight of the crowd, the Englishman turned. “You can go now,” he said. “You are free.”
The slave had been redeemed and set free. So, if Christ is our dawn of redeeming grace, his death on the cross has bought out our sinful condition – our bondage to sin – and has redeemed us and purchased our freedom. We are free. We are redeemed – by the grace of God.
Grace is an important part of this redeeming equation.
So important that John mentions the word “grace” four times in the first seventeen verses of his Gospel and not once again in the remainder of it. As one commentator put it, “the entirety of the Gospel will show what grace looks like, tastes like, smells like, and feels like.” It is grace that redeems us – that sets us free – that makes good on God’s promise to be with us, forgive us, and love us always. Grace is like a coupon that we get to redeem – only this one has no expiration date.
I’m going to return to the story of the bought and freed slave, because it didn’t quite end the way the englishman expected.
So, again, the Englishman turned toward the slave he had just purchased and said, “You can go now,” he said. “You are free.” The man stood still, gazing at him through narrowed eyes. He did not seem to understand. “I said you are free. I have bought your freedom. You are no longer a slave.” The man continued to stare at him in silence. “Please, you are free,” the englishman said. “You are free to go. You can do what you want to.” The now former slave finally smiled. “Don’t you see?” he said. “I want to serve you.”
That is how we are to respond to The Dawn of Redeeming Grace – with service toward Him – not out of obligation or duty, but simply out of pure joy, love, and appreciation. For we have received God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense, haven’t we? God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense – is an acronym. What does it spell? G.R.A.C.E.
At Christ’s expense. Only the work of Jesus Christ on the cross has paid the price for our sins in order for us to be set free. Believe that. Accept that. Embrace that truth. No conditions apply to this truth. This is not a conditional redemption. Redeeming grace is undeserved and is not based on the worthiness of our thoughts, words or deeds. None of us are worthy. This is why Jesus comes to us full of grace and truth, and we continue to receive not just grace – but as verse 16 says, grace upon grace!
A little boy wrote this letter to Santa Claus: “Dear Santa, there are three little boys who live at our house. There is Jeffrey; he is 2. There is David; he is 4. And there is Norman; he is 7. Jeffrey is good some of the time. David is good some of the time. But Norman is good all of the time. P.S. I am Norman.”
None of us, like Norman – are good all of the time – are we? We are all more like Jeffrey and David – good some of the time and bad some of the time. Saints and sinners at the same time. We all, including Norman whether he realizes it or not, rely on the unconditional and unending Dawn of Redeeming Grace which comes to us every morning to offer us new life, new light, and new beginnings. And like the slave, though we too are free to go to do what we want to – we respond instead by serving our protective master, our loving Lord, and our gracious Jesus – every single day.
I hope to see many of you in worship on Christmas Eve. Come at 4:00 p.m. for a beautiful Christmas music prelude. Candlelight worship begins at 4:30 p.m. If I don’t see you, have a blessed Christmas celebration with family and friends.
Pr. Dale