“From his fullness we have all received grace upon grace.” –John 1:16

Peace is one of the ‘Big Four’ Christmas words (Hope, Peace, Love, Joy). But I’m not sure peace is possible outside the practice of grace.

When we offer grace conflict has no fuel to burn. Not that grace gives free passes, or behavior doesn’t matter, but that grace creates an atmosphere where enmity and judgment and exclusion lose their power. Grace knows we are all equally lost, all equally forgiven, all equally welcome home.

Christmas grace invites us to sit at a table with no hierarchy, in a banquet hall with no gate. But at the door there is a deep pit where we must drop our weapons, our arguments, our pride, our guilt, our superiority and our issues—the heavy garments of self and rightness that weigh us down. Then we can enter clothed with humility. Grace not only welcomes, but it expects us to welcome others too.

Grace may be defined as ‘free’ but let us not misunderstand; the way for grace was made clear at great cost. We only gain a proper appreciation for what grace is when we extend it to others and bear some of the cost ourselves. So here’s a thought: Maybe grace is not only a gift we can accept but a burden we must share?

Ultimately, it is no hardship to extend Grace. But—just like unharnessing our weapons and dropping the heavy clothing of our self-rightness at the door to the banquet—living in grace will appear costly until we get the hang of it, until we understand the freedom of it all the way to our bones, all the way to our hearts and spirits and souls, all the way through to Jesus.

This is how I am thinking about grace and peace this Christmas. My prayer is that these thoughts help you on your 2019 journey to Bethlehem, on your path to the infant child in the manger, on your decision to accept the invitation too.

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Derek Maul has written for many news outlets, including the Tampa Tribune, The United Methodist News Service, All Pro Dad, FOCUS Magazine, Newsweek, USA Today, The Christian Science Monitor, Presbyterians Today, Guideposts, Chicken Soup for the Soul and many other publications. Read Derek Maul’s daily blog posts at www.derekmaul.wordpress.com.