Did you survive “Black Friday”? The so-called start of the Christmas shopping season began as it has for the past few years, with breaking news stories about lines/mobs of anxious, if not angry, people who were willing to push, shove, kick, punch, gouge, trample, and even pepper spray anyone around them just so they can get the stuff they want–all in the name of celebrating Christmas (whether they recognize the birth of Jesus or not). Clearly someone has missed the point.

As he begins to explain the arrival of Jesus, the apostle John tells us in John 1:17 that “Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” If we are celebrating the birth of the one who brought grace and truth, surely we should not be having knock-down, drag-out fights over cheap TVs. While I didn’t see anyone I know on the news throwing punches in the aisles of the local big-box stores, I know that many of us struggle with the idea of “peace on earth” during this holiday season. So, how can we be more like Jesus while we’re shopping for gifts, preparing for guests, and traveling to see friends and relatives? We need to focus on the grace and truth that Jesus brought.

Generally, we understand the truth that all of us are sinners in need of God’s forgiveness and that the only way we can receive that forgiveness is by God’s grace, as a gift from God; this is why we exchange gifts as we celebrate Jesus’ birth. Perhaps we have forgotten some of the nuances of the word grace, the ideas of joy, beauty, pleasure, charm, and loveliness. The Greek word translated as grace in the New Testament carries these images with it; not only is God’s grace a gift, it is a gift that brings joy.

Do we, as God’s children who have received that gift, reflect the joy that comes with God’s grace? Are you generous in your giving? Are you pleasant as you interact with store clerks? Are you charming despite your disappointment when what you want isn’t in stock or while you are waiting in seemingly endless lines? Does our celebration of Christmas show others the grace and truth that Jesus brought? Our culture has taken God’s perfect gift and buried the joy that comes with it under flashing lights and ribbons and door-buster sales. We don’t have to let it stay that way. Let’s reclaim the joy of God’s grace and celebrate the birth of Jesus so that others may experience that joy as well.