A Christmas of Redemption
Redemption is beautiful.
Every Christmas season, we’re immersed in stories that celebrate and embrace this very thing. Often, the most memorable and beloved scenes are those that depict the beauty of redemption.
When the Grinch hears the Who’s singing on Christmas morning, and in a sudden cardiac transformation, he’s changed. When Scrooge’s ghosts grant him respite, in tremendous joy, he runs out and buys an enormous Turkey and sends it anonymously to the Cratchits for their Christmas feast. And when Kevin McCallister’s family returns home, after everything he’s been through, he’s happy, for the first time in the film, to be reunited with his family.
Each one of these scenes is a beautiful display of redemption.
Yet, no matter how much we enjoy it on the screen (or the page), we often struggle to believe in redemption in actual life. Maybe we struggle in some area, and wonder whether we’ll ever truly get things together. Perhaps we’ve been wounded by someone, and we doubt that they could ever really change.
We delight in redemption in stories, but we doubt there’s redemption for us.
Chapter 20 of the Book of Acts records a story grounded in this same theme of redemption. The story’s setting is that the Apostle Paul is passing through the city of Ephesus, where he lived for several years, on his way to Jerusalem. He’s reached a good, ripe age in life, and believes that this will be the last time he’ll ever see them. The story records his final words to these friends who’ve meant so much to him. This is what he says.
32 “Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified…35 In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”
-Acts 20:32, 35 (NIV)
He speaks of the gospel, “the word of his grace.” And he speaks of generosity, quoting Jesus’ own words, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
In commenting upon these two subjects, Paul is speaking of redemption.
This is so because our use of money always reveals something about hearts. Our transaction records demonstrate what we truly care about and believe in. So much so that an inability to practice generosity is often rooted in a misunderstanding of grace.
In commending them to the gospel, Paul is urging them to remember that their identity is found in Christ. Because when we attempt to find it elsewhere, our ability to practice generosity always becomes ensnared. And our joy is lost.
Our willingness and ability to give is restricted, because how can we give when we need the money for so many other things? To buy and outfit the perfect house. To acquire the gear and memberships we need to stay physically fit. To purchase the cosmetics and clothing we need. To stay ahead of the game by obtaining the latest tech.
Our money flows freest toward what we find our value in.
Now, these are all good things, and enjoying them isn’t wrong. However, it’s always worth considering whether or not we’ve invested too much of ourselves into something. The question being whether our commitment to any one thing has stolen our ability and willingness to be generous.
Honestly, this happens to me. I feel a resistance to giving sometimes because, in the moment, there are so many other things I’d rather use the money for. Because I get caught up believing the lie that using the money for myself will bring more joy than generosity.
Paul is urging his friends to recognize this lie, and to know that their value can never be found in anything with a tag. Nothing you buy can ever make you feel whole.
Instead, recognizing who has purchased us and what our price was, is exactly what will deliver to us security and joy. And will give us the ability to practice generosity as a way of demonstrating where our value is found—not in anything that we buy or earn, but in Christ alone.
For this reason, giving is a redemptive act. Redemption is found in grace and displayed through generosity.
Here at SMCC, we invite you to give for these reasons.
First, because it’s a way to resist false, fragile identities and instead grow further into our identity in Jesus, finding greater joy in him. Second, because we do believe in redemption. Because of our trust in Jesus, but also because we see it happening in our community all the time.
For example, this past year we celebrated 103 baptisms together. That’s 103 stories of redemption. 103 stories just like Alexis’s.
Alexis was in a religion that taught that her worth was determined by what others thought of her. This led her to a place where her life was lonely and sad, her life was crumbling, and she didn’t see a way out.
Then, she began to trust Jesus more and more, as people showed her grace when she least expected it, and had done nothing to deserve it. SMCC was a safe place for her to come and feel peace and love.
This past year, Alexis was baptized because she's learned to trust Jesus, that he is who he says he is, and that he loves her just because she’s her.
Redemption is beautiful. And real.
When you give to SMCC, you’re investing in just that. You’re giving to help stories like Alexis’s happen. And Tyler’s. And Holly’s. And Ethan’s. And Jamie’s, Alina’s, and Dave’s. And so many more.
You’re joining in the mission of helping as many people as possible take their next step towards full devotion and full delight in Jesus Christ. In doing so, you’re investing in your own delight in him as well.
So, this Christmas season, I leave you with a paraphrase Paul’s final words to his Ephesian friends—
“Remember the gospel as the place where your true identity is found, and allow it to inspire you to greater joy and generosity.”