“O Little Town of Bethlehem”
United Methodist Hymnal – #230
. . . where meek souls will receive him,
still the dear Christ enters in.
Thanks to modern technology, I’ve seen all sorts of things that I would never have had a reason to see. For instance, baby goats in pajamas. Or a raccoon scaling a 25 story building. It would seem that one of the regularly posted videos is of a poor unsuspecting deer finding itself in a convenience store, or worse, someone’s home. Usually the poor animal is seen frantically leaping about, doing all kinds of damage before it finds its way back out the door and into its far more familiar environment. The animal was certainly an unwelcome guest, one that did not receive an invitation to enter. For the past 10 days I’ve spoken much about the season of Advent being a time for us to open our hearts to welcome the Christ Child and others. But the founder of Methodism, John Wesley saw it differently. Wesley spoke of three forms of grace: Justifying, Sanctifying, and Prevenient. Justifying and Sanctifying grace fuel God’s forgiveness and the on-going presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. It’s Prevenient grace that may be the most remarkable, misunderstood, and un-earned. Defined as “going before”, Prevenient grace exists even before we ask. Certainly God will respond to our invitation to enter our lives, but through Prevenient grace, God is already there. During the Advent/Christmas season, we do experience a rebirth, the coming again of the baby born in a manger. But an invitation is not necessary. God already lives in our hearts.
Do not be like them,
for your Father knows what you need
before you ask him.
God of the open heart, we marvel at the breadth of your love. Even at our most unlovable, you live in our hearts and offer us grace and forgiveness. As we ponder the unnecessary act of invitation, we feel unworthy to be recipients of your grace. But it’s there, today, and all the days after. Make us worthy Lord, to claim your ever present grace, and live according to your will. Amen.
~ Rev. L. Michael Kelley