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2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the season of Lent.

Just a few short weeks ago, we were singing with gusto, “Joy to the world, the Lord is come.” We celebrated the fulfillment of Old Testament promises with the coming of the Messiah, the birth of Jesus two thousand years ago.

But our text today, this excerpt from one of Paul’s letters to the Corinthians, turns our hearts and minds in a different direction. The pure joy and celebration of Christmas has given way to the realities of a still-fallen world. The overwhelming message is joy in spite of…

Joy in spite of sorrow, living in spite of dying, enduring in spite of afflictions, calamities, and hardships.

The movement from the Christmas season to the season of Lent is a movement from celebrating the light that comes in the darkness to a recognition that there is still darkness. Darkness in our world and darkness in our own hearts. The Messiah came, we saw him, we listened to him, we witnessed him heal and forgive people, and then we killed him. The light came into the darkness, but the darkness did not understand it.

Paul warned the Corinthians not to “accept the grace of God in vain.” When the Messiah comes, how do we accept him?

I think the answer to that may depend on what we were expecting of the Messiah. What do we expect our lives will be like when we become Christians?

That we will suddenly cruise through life to our goals and dreams with no obstacles because God cleared our path for us?

That the difficulties living in a fallen world will bounce off the “faith bubble” that now surrounds us?

That our marriages will be healthier and our kids will be happier because of our weekly dose of Jesus?