“Away in a manger
No crib for His bed . . .”
It staggers imagination that the Lord of life, the Creator of all that is, found His first bed neither in a warmed obstetrics ward nor in a baby’s well-built crib. His reality was far more primitive than all the gilded mangers which adorn displays in churches or millions of homes this Christmas.
The manger in which Jesus slept His first hour was almost certainly a shallow bowl carved into the rock floor of a cave or lean-to shelter—quite literally, a hole in the ground from which the livestock ate. It was the lowest of low places, the symbol of how low grace will stoop to live with us and be one of us. And you will recall that at the other end of His life, Jesus was—temporarily—laid in another hole in the ground—a tomb carved from the rock face of a cliff.
There is a special symmetry in this, for grace seeks out “the lowly and despised things of this world” (1 Cor 1:28) to illustrate that no one is beneath the saving love of God. The worst, the lowest thing you’ve done is still redeemable because of grace. The best and highest thing you’ll do is only possible through grace.
Grace moved low to lift us up. So stay in it.
The act of giving thanks—whispered at each common meal, or once a year at family dinners on big holidays—is an early, hopeful flag that grace has come to live with us. For a moment—for one long, exhaling moment—we acknowledge the truth of what the apostle wrote 2000 years ago: “You are not your own: you have been bought with a price” (I Cor 6:19-20). For an instant, the guard is down, the drawbridge open, and we admit that we aren’t self-made or even self-sustained. The castle of our lives has always had a Guardian, a Protector. All that we are, and all we have, and every structure that secures us has been given, not deserved. Even what we say we’ve “earned” is undeniably built on gifts too numerous to count. When I say “thanks,” I confess that there is something—Someone—wider, bigger, and more gracious than any defense I muster or every good I do. So we learn grace through gratitude. And even as we teach our children to “Say thank-you,” the Spirit prompts us each to murmur private “Hallelujahs.” Throw wide the gates, and cross the moat. Release yourself. And stay in grace. -
In all those moments in between—when idling in slow traffic; or stuck in dull, unhappy meetings; or waiting for the sound of tires rolling up the drive—our thoughts revert to what we’ve missed. Where would we rather be? With whom would we prefer to talk? Why must our time be wasted?
But the God of every moment—even dull, unhappy ones—offers us His presence and His care. “I have loved you, My people, with an everlasting love,” He says. (Jer 31:3). “Be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt 28:20). “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matt 11:28).
The grace of God is still our gift when schedules lag and people disappoint and time hangs heavy on our hands. There is no hour Christ will not share; no hidden grief He cannot bear; no pause in all His patient care.
Remember now how much you’re loved. And when you wait, then stay in grace.
Thankfulness is all about our expectations. So long as we think we deserve to be healthy—physically, financially—and that a sick body or an empty wallet is an injustice done to us, we’ll never feel all that grateful when God heals us. If God owes it to us to make and keep us healthy and wealthy, why should we thank Him for it?
But if we grasp the deep sacredness of living—that every moment is a gift from the Father’s hand—then everything in us will sing of everything God is doing for us. Every illness overcome; every bank account that didn’t run dry; every wounded relationship healed is a special act of grace. We deserved none of these good things: we’ve been given all these good things.
“O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare Your praise” (Ps 51:5).
So stay in gratitude—and grace.
Describe the life you’ve always wanted in three simple nouns—no more.
Love, Power, and Excitement.
Wealth, Opportunity, and Fame.
Friends, Risk, and Excellence.
Now try three more—all rooted in a common gift: Grace, Gratitude, and Graciousness.
Grace is how we came to be—and saves us from what we have become. “God decided in advance to adopt us into His own family by bringing us to Himself through Jesus Christ. This is what He wanted to do, and it gave Him great pleasure.So we praise God for the glorious grace He has poured out on us who belong to His dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that He purchased our freedom with the blood of His Son and forgave our sins” (Eph 1:5-8).
And gratitude is an intelligent, mature response to all that that God has gifted us in Jesus. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God” (Col 3:16).
Graciousness is how we live as loved and honored people—with empathy and gentleness, forgiving as we’ve been forgiven. “Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone” (Col 4:6).
Choose wisely when you pick your nouns. Your destiny depends on them.
And stay in grace.
Those who most object to grace are those who think they need it least—who blithely trust that Jesus has a “higher” way of saving them. No deep repentance, wet with tears, will stain their history: they imagine righteousness will be an earned diploma on some future graduation day.
But there’s only one way to the kingdom, and it passes through the gate of grace. No prior goodness lets us enter by some grander, private entrance; no record of abstaining lets us walk apart from those who’ve wallowed in the mud.
The gate is narrow to exclude all largely self-congratulating selves: we’re either saved by Jesus’ blood, or we’re not saved at all.
So join the line where all must meet: walk hand in hand with all in need.
And stay in grace.
Ask the average person what they need most, and you’ll get a list you’d write yourself: a long vacation; a good night’s sleep; more money on the job; a guide for raising teens.
But rumbling deep beneath the early answers, there is one that resonates for all of us: “Peace with God.”
Even when we’re fed and rested; even when the raise comes through; even when the teens are sweet, we feel the ache of being distant from the Father. The residue of poor decisions, selfishness, and bitter words gnaws at our consciences. And there’s no beach or paycheck that can take that restlessness away.
Jesus offers us the quiet hearts we’ll never find by searching: “I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart” (Eze 36:26). The promise of new life is always there—beneath our brokenness; above our fear; beyond our finest efforts. “Don’t let your hearts be troubled,” Jesus says. “Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home.” (John 14:1-2).
Grace answers what we need the most—connection; love; belonging. There’s nothing better in this world. Or in the next one.
So stay in grace. - Bill Knott
On every day, in every way, God knows what we’ve been doing.
The Father sees each burst of pride, each run of lust, each carelessness that injures others. “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight” (Heb 4:13).
But seeing all does not mean loving less, for love begins with honesty. We want to hide from all we’ve done, and fall for the lie that God no longer loves us. But grace reminds us of the Father’s remedy for shame: “If we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness” (1 John 1:9).
“God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And He gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation” (2 Cor 5:17).
Grace is the place where we are fully known and fully loved. We need not hide, except in Him: “Your real life is hidden with Christ in God” (Col 3:3). “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” (Rom 5:20).
Be seen. Be known. Be held. Be loved.
And stay in grace.