Have you ever stood in a tunnel, a great chasm or a room with a huge vaulted ceiling? There are places where even a whisper can echo and resonate and boom!
I have stood inside an acoustic wonder – the Taj Mahal in India. I still recall the smells, sounds and sights of that wondrous place. It was hard to hear my own echo amidst the dozens of other voices, the hub hub of guides and tourists.
The Bible is full of glorious echoes from Old to New Testament as we wander through advent and wonder at the incarnation.
Once such echo is found in one word, used only twice in the New Testament. It’s the word “charitoo” – it means to make graceful or endow with grace. The word is full of action! It’s first use is when the angel visits Mary,
“The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you.”
This is where Catholics draw their “Hail Mary, full of grace”. What an astonishing thing to hear! Mary has a special place in the nativity story, a special place in history.
But God’s grace being extravagantly poured out is not limited to special individuals.
Paul is the one who uses the word for the second time, and we find ourselves the other side of Jesus life, death and resurrection. Something dramatic has changed in the cosmos and this echo of grace now encompasses everything and everyone.
“So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son.”
(Ephesians 1: 6)
Grace continues to pour forth from the throne of God. We are caught up in the echo from Heaven! Mary was blessed in order to be a blessing. What is received (having been so freely given) to be fully enjoyed and appreciated must be shared and given away.
Traditions have built up, across the globe, surrounding different aspects of the nativity story. Some aspects get so enhanced and shared they become like Chinese whispers – that which was intended changes subtly each time it is heard and what we might receive is far removed from the original.
Today we have Kings around the cradle, we have a stable and a donkey . . . none mentioned as being part of Christ’s birth in scripture. We can echo and celebrate and indulge our senses in these false echoes of tradition – or, remind ourselves through what Paul writes of what has been passed on and given to us – “to pass on” is literally what tradition means!
In our work with young people, where are the echoes of God’s grace and goodness?
Where do we spot the grace of God at work today, even in the midst of suffering and pain?
What might we celebrate in our own lives that God has poured in to us by His glorious grace?