“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth… For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:14, 16-17)

Jesus is full of grace and truth: He always has been, and He always will be.

Without diminishing His fullness one ounce, He came to give His grace and truth to you and me. This is as true for Christmas 2020 as all the others we have celebrated but of course there are some things we might be more attuned to this year…

Christmas is God stepping into the human story, sharing our life with us. This means that we can say that our God “gets it”; when you speak to Him, He understands what you’re going through, however unprecedented it may seem.

If we want to talk about restricted movement, how about going from being infinite to being hemmed in by a womb? From omnipresent to fixed in one place at a time. He who saw the universe formed now could only look down a dusty street. He who spoke creation into being might now not be heard in the din of a noisy crowd.

Isolation? Maybe not usually the involuntary physical isolation we’re all experiencing to some degree or other but the fact of His uniqueness was isolating. You sense it sometimes when He’s being misunderstood or getting frustrated. And, of course, there was the utter loneliness of the Garden of Gethsemane.

Disappointment? He was rejected by many who saw Him perform great signs and speak great truth. He was betrayed by Judas, denied by Peter, abandoned by the rest.

Sorrow? He is “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3). He weeps at the death of friends and the rebellion of Jerusalem.

Living with an increased risk of death? Even the story of His birth is haunted by death, as Herod tries to kill Him. And for how many years did He know that He was headed for the cross, before He began to resolutely walk the path towards it?

What might all this mean for how He thinks of us right now, with what we’re going through? Many of us can find it hard to sympathise with those who are experiencing things we consider less stressful than what we’ve gone through. Jesus could easily treat us that way, if He wasn’t Jesus.

Jesus is full of grace and truth: He always has been, and He always will be.

“For we do not have a high priest [a representative] who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15-16)

Seated on a throne of grace, full of grace (as John 1 told us), He offers us grace. His grace is sympathetic, co-suffering, and compassionate. Jesus didn’t just go around doing good things, He was deeply moved to do those things from the core of His being. The Greek word for pity/compassion could mean “gut feeling”. Our weakness didn’t cause Him to despise or reject us, but rather brought Him close to us…

Two blind men ask Him to heal them: “And Jesus in pity touched their eyes, and immediately they recovered their sight and followed him.” (Matthew 20:34)

A leper begs to made clean: “Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, ‘I will; be clean.’” (Mark 1:41)

He sees a widow burying her only son: “And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, ‘Do not weep.’” (Luke 7:13) He raises the man to life.

In case you think that it’s normal to be compassionate for those kind of situations (even though all of us walk past or ignore needy people most days), when He tries to go to a quiet place to grieve the murder of His cousin and forerunner John the Baptist, and a crowd hear about it and chase after Him, “He had compassion on them and healed their sick.” (Matthew 14:14) Then He miraculously feeds the 5,000 men, plus women and children.

And He uses the word Himself in one of His most famous stories about grace for those who don’t deserve it. As the filthy, foolish prodigal son returns home to the man whom He had insulted, wished dead, and then wasted his money, “his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.” This, Jesus tells us, is what God is like.

God is full of grace and truth. He always has been, and He always will be.

Jesus came to us at Christmas so that we could come to Him at any time. We can approach the throne of grace with confidence, knowing what kind of response we will get. We may not get immunity from sickness, job security, or even a limited gathering of people we’d like to spend Christmas with. But we will get Him: utterly sympathetic, moved with compassion, full of grace and truth. In a year when so much has changed and seemed uncertain, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)

It seems like greeting people with “Happy Christmas” or “Merry Christmas” is a bit hollow right now. So let me use the greeting that the first Christians seem to have used a lot, which is true whatever Christmas is like: “Grace and peace to you.”


P.S. Let me take this opportunity to urge you to buy Gentle and Lowly by Dane Ortlund, which explores the heart of Christ for sinners and sufferers beautifully biblically.


Photo by Phil Botha on Unsplash.