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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Today’s Reading | 1 Timothy 1:15

The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the foremost. (NRSV)

Paul’s assertion is simple and startling: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Not to correct or condemn, not to exclude or destroy. Jesus came to save, to bring back, to restore.

Paul didn’t see sinners as the other; he describes himself in this chapter as the worst of all: “a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence.” In the next breath, though, Paul describes God’s response to his persecution and violence: “But I received mercy . . . and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me.”

Grace and mercy: easy to imagine for ourselves, but hard to envision extended to others, especially those we regard as evil. There is no shortage of evil around us, as we go deep into Advent, the time of waiting expectantly for the coming of God with us. As I write this, blood is still being washed from the streets of Paris. The image of a dead Syrian toddler washed up on a beach indelibly lingers.

In a world where thousands flee violence, we remember that the baby Jesus whose coming we look for was himself a migrant, a refugee taken to safety by parents who fled across national borders. Yet Jesus lived and died to save the very men who, at Herod’s order, slaughtered as many male Hebrew children as they could find. He lived and died to save the ones who betrayed him, arrested and tortured him, nailed him to a cross. He prayed for them from that cross, for forgiveness.

Grace and mercy, for them—and for us.

God of unfathomable grace, we wait in silence, sometimes in darkness, for the coming of your light into the world. Open our hearts to the wideness of your mercy. Amen.

Written by Jeanne Bishop, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

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