For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we may walk in them. Ephesians 2:8-10
Most Christians know that Ephesians 2:8-9 captured Martin Luther’s attention and led him to reforms in the church, ultimately resulting in the Reformation. “By grace you are saved” is preached and taught in the Lutheran tradition from the beginning of each person’s faith journey. That’s half the point of this Advent’s devotion theme, “Justified and Just: Saved and Sent by the Coming Christ.”
Paul did not stop at salvation, however. The coming Christ saves us from bondage to sin and death, freeing us to serve “the other.” That’s the exhortation in verse 10. Because we have been saved we are transformed and an outcome of that transformation is good works. Paul goes on in his letter to share how we are to live.
Luther also composed a treatise titled “The Freedom of a Christian.” As Presiding Bishop Elizabeth A. Eaton of the ELCA puts it, “he offered his most compelling summary of the Christian life: In Christ we are completely free and at the same time completely bound in love and service to our neighbors.”
You see this love and service here at Grace Church in our coat drives, sandwich making, food walks, peace and justice advocacy, benevolences, and on and on. “Christian individuals do not live in themselves but in Christ and their neighbor,” Luther wrote.
Eaton adds that “as in Luther’s day, our faithful response to the uncertainty and death-dealing forces in our world is to proclaim that which is sure and life-giving for all. Freed in Christ, we resist the temptation to turn inward in despair by turning outward in love and service to the world.” With the Christ child’s arrival, we can let our lights shine.
Thank you, generous God, for the gift of grace, the gift of faith, the gift of salvation, and most of all, the gift of Jesus. Amen