Grace for the New Year

John Newton wrote “Amazing Grace” for a New Year’s service at his church:

[GOD’S PAST GRACE]
Amazing grace! (how sweet the sound)
That sav’d a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears reliev’d;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believ’d!

[GOD’S PRESENT GRACE]
Through many dangers, toils, and snares,
I have already come;
‘Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

[GOD’S FUTURE GRACE]
The Lord has promis’d good to me,

His word my hope secures:
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who call’d me here below,
Will be forever mine.

Emmanuel! (30)

Jesus whom we worship was born into a specific culture of the world. In the mystery of the incarnation are the model and the mandate for the contextualization of Christian worship. God can be and is encountered in the local cultures of our world. A given culture’s values and patterns, insofar as they are consonant with the values of the Gospel, can be used to express the meaning and purpose of Christian worship. Contextualization is a necessary task for the Church’s mission in the world, so that the Gospel can be ever more deeply rooted in diverse local cultures.

—Constance Cherry, The Worship Architect, A Blueprint for Designing Culturally Relevant and Biblically Faithful Services, 293

Emmanuel! (29)

Though in our sin we are rebels deserving only the censure and judgment of God, in our human state apart from sin, that human experience into which Jesus entered, we are the glory of the entire creation. We are made like Him, as like Him as any creature could be made; and we are made for Him, for fellowship with Him to all eternity. The real marvel of incarnation is not that God should become man, but that He should do so for us men and for our salvation. At the end of the day, it is not chiefly a marvel of the mind, but a marvel of the heart.

—Nigel M. de S. Cameron, Complete in Christ, 28

Emmanuel! (28)

Break forth, O beauteous heav’nly light,
and usher in the morning;
O shepherds, shrink not with affright,
but hear the angel’s warning.
This Child, now weak in infancy,
our confidence and joy shall be;
the pow’r of Satan breaking,
our peace eternal making.

Break forth, O beauteous heav’nly light,
to herald our salvation;
He stoops to earth—the God of might,
our hope and expectation.
He comes in human flesh to dwell,
our God with us, Immanuel;
the night of darkness ending,
our fallen race befriending.

—Johann von Rist (1641), translated by John Troutbec

Emmanuel! (27)

“And the Word became flesh. . . . [Jesus said] My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in Him.” John 1:14; 6:55-56)

The Eternal Son took on human nature, but more than that, took on flesh, dilapidated human nature, so that He could restore it. He entered fully into the world of sin and death so that He could bring life and righteousness. Light entered the darkness so that darkness could be turned to light.

And now Jesus tells us that this flesh that He took on has become food, food that gives life, food that binds Him to us and us to Him. The bread on this table is not another incarnation of Jesus. It would be a sin, and a grievous one, if we were to bow down and worship this bread in the way the wise men bowed down to worship the infant Jesus. But through this bread we do feed on Jesus, the living and life-giving Incarnate Son of God.

Jesus is the bread that came down from heaven: He who eats and drinks of Jesus has eternal life, and Jesus will raise you up on the last day.

—Peter Leithart (blogpost)