I bought an Ancestry DNA kit several years ago and sent it in. Would you be surprised to find out that I’m mostly Scandinavian and German? I wasn’t. I was surprised that I was much more Scandinavian than I thought, but still, not a big deviation from what I grew up believing that I was. There were lots of little bits and pieces of other nationalities in there too, mainly because the Vikings brought home people from other parts of the world, and their DNA got mixed in too. But in all those little bits and pieces and slivers, there was no Middle Eastern decent of any kind. I’m not Jewish at all. I’m what the Bible calls a “Gentile”.
“What is a Gentile?”, you might ask. Well, it means someone who is not a Jew, not an Israelite. God’s chosen people were the Israelites. The Ten Commandments were written for the Israelites. All the laws of the Old Testament were written for the Israelites. Gentiles were not included in the family of God at that time.
But then came Jesus. The Magi came to worship him. But why? They were not Jewish. Yet they had been called to come see the new king. They had an epiphany. It was the manifestation of the divine being to the Gentiles. The word epiphany comes from a Greek word that means “reveal”. Those wise men realized that they were meeting God in human form, and they worshiped him. They had an epiphany that would be celebrated for all time.
When Jesus came into his ministry, we see him ministering to all. There were no boundaries as to whom Jesus would preach or love. Tax collectors, prostitutes, the lowest of the low. Imagine Jesus gathered in a group of homeless men and women, druggies and criminals, sitting around a garbage can fire, listening to him talk about God. That’s how unnatural this ministry was. Jesus not only sat with them, he loved them. They were God’s children just as much the tribes of Israel were his children. The Pharisees didn’t like Jesus. He messed up their plans. He messed up their “holier than thou” attitudes. He called them out on their unrighteousness.
God grafted us Gentiles, the wild olive shoots, into the the branches of Abraham’s tree so we are nourished by the sap of the roots of God’s special cultivated olive tree, The Tree of Life. We have been given the same love as God extended to his children of Israel. (Romans 11:17) But what does this really mean? It means that we have been given God’s grace.
God gave us his grace, and the New Covenant, which we read about in Hebrews. God tells us that Jesus was the lasting sacrifice. He died on the cross, and His blood, His life, was the sacrifice for our sins. And since we have been grafted onto the Tree of Life, that sacrifice is for us Gentiles too. God tell us that he will forget our wickedness. He has forgiven our sins. His grace is what saves us, there is nothing we can do to make God love us more.
But what is grace? Justin Holcomb tell us that “Grace is the opposite of karma, which is all about getting what you deserve. Grace is getting what you don’t deserve, and not getting what you do deserve, which is death. Grace is most needed and best understood in the midst of sin, suffering, and brokenness. We live in a world of earning, deserving, and merit, and these result in judgment. That is why everyone wants and needs grace. Judgment kills. Only grace makes alive.” “Grace is the love of God shown to the unlovely; the peace of God given to the restless; the unmerited favor of God”
Grace is Jesus, given to us, to take our punishment. Grace is Jesus, given to us, so that we can see God’s love, even though we don’t deserve it. Grace is the gift of life that God’s gives us so that we can go out and show His love to everyone. We share of stories of God’s grace with others so they will want it too. What a wonderful world we would have if everyone felt God’s grace in their hearts, and were thankful and humbled by the immensity of his great love for us all! There would be no more we and them, and I and you, for we would know that we are all brothers and sisters. Men and women of every color, every nationality, every walk of life: every single person on this planet as your sibling. And we would show our love, and we would treat each other as Jesus told us to, as ourselves. We would want the best for every single person. We wouldn’t judge another’s wrongful actions because we know that we have wrongful actions in our lives as well. We would lend a hand, and help pull people up instead of oppressing them. Poverty would disappear as we all shared what we had. Instead of trying to get ahead in the rat race of life, we would be working together, for the collective good of all humankind. Could you imagine a world without greed and oppression? Because this is what Jesus tells us: ” Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it; “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
And all of this started with a baby. A baby born into our world of sin, of corruption, of tragedy and pain. We celebrate the birth of Jesus, and 12 days later, we celebrate the Magi, the wise men who came to worship. The Gentiles who studied astronomy, the moon and stars and planets, and came seeking something. Something they knew had to be big; so big that the stars changed in the heavens. And the star over Bethlehem prompted them to go and seek whatever that was. They knew of the prophecy, that a King would be born. They knew that a Messiah had been born, to shepherd God’s people. That baby changed everything. And you, you child of God, you can make the world a better place by extending God’s grace to those around you. Because we all need God’s grace more than anything else.
God, we thank you for your grace. Thank you for your faithfulness to us, and extending to us all these undeserved blessings. We are your children, and you are our loving Father. Guide us through these times of trials and ruthlessness and division in our world and our country. Shine your light of peace on all our hearts and let us shine in your glory. Let us all remember that we are all your children, and help stop fighting with our brothers and sisters. Help us learn to love one another as you have commanded. Amen.