We trade our gifts on Christmas Eve, or Christmas morn, or some convenient holiday. We wait to see a grateful smile, or wide-eyed wonder on a child’s face—all quietly aware our turn is next: the next gift will be handed us. And though this pageant brings us joy, and warms our hearts, we dare not say it represents the gospel, even though it’s full of gifts. Our calculations typically are tuned to give of equal value. We won’t embarrass others with extravagance that they can’t match, nor do we like the debt we feel when we receive “too much.” But heaven gave extravagantly when heaven gave us Jesus. He came with nothing in His hands but everything—all riches—in His heart. His greatest joy is in our joy—and in our inability to trade Him anything in return. Grace is a gift we cannot earn, and don’t deserve, and can’t repay. We don’t make things “even” by obedience, or costly sums, or kindly deeds that lessen obligation. He who “owns the cattle on a thousand hills”—and all the hills—isn’t seeking reciprocity. Accept the gift. Embrace the Child. Be overwhelmed with joy. And stay in grace. -Bill Knott

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Wilona Karimabadi is an assistant editor of Adventist Review and editor of KidsView magazine.  www.adventistreview.org

Wilona Karimabadi is an assistant editor of Adventist Review and editor of KidsView magazine.  www.adventistreview.org

Gerald Klingbeil serves as associate editor of Adventist World magazine. www.adventistreview.org

"Journeys with Jesus" is an intimate, personal look at the walk we all have with our Savior. Inspirational, heart-tugging, thought-provoking vignettes of life's journey and life's decisions. Most of all, it points us to our Father, our Friend, as the Source of all wisdom, comfort, and peace. Jill Morikone is the vice president and chief operations officer for Three Angels Broadcasting Network.  She and her husband, Greg, live in Illinois and enjoy ministering together. www.adventistreview.org

Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence?”(Psalm 139:7, NRSV) “Searching the Obvious” focuses on how the Holy Spirit is ever active in our surroundings and in our lives, urging us to serve others. Personal stories challenge the reader to be mindful of our Christian Walk, recognize our own fallibility and slow down to ‘search the obvious’, the active presence of the Holy Spirit ever always around us. Dixil Rodriguez is a university professor and hospital chaplain, lives in Texas, USA. www.adventistreiew.org

Daniel Bruneau is creative director for Adventist Review Ministries.

It would have been grace enough if the Father had executively announced from heaven’s throne that He was commuting our deserved sentences and opening all prison doors. That would have been the very definition of unimaginable and unmerited favor. But that His Son should condescend to crawl into our hovels, be one of us, experience our dirt and pain, and taste the worst of weakness and of cruelty—that’s more than we dared ask or think. Grace took on flesh and bone, and all the drudgery and mystery of being human, in hope of bonding us forever to the Father. Jesus took no detours around our pain, for “we have One who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin” (Heb 4:15). Jesus was—and is—the grace of God incarnate, for grace invariably moves toward those who hurt and grieve and sin. Christ passed through our last portal—death—to open up the door to heaven’s deathless throne room. Now He has sat down again at the right hand of the Father, awaiting grace’s final chapter, when He says we will share His glory and His throne. There is no finer, better place than wherever Jesus is. So stay in grace. -Bill Knott

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The act of giving thanks—whispered at each common meal, or once a year at family dinners on big holidays—is an early, hopeful flag that grace has come to live with us. For a moment—for one long, exhaling moment—we acknowledge the truth of what the apostle wrote 2000 years ago: “You are not your own:  you have been bought with a price”  (I Cor 6:19-20). For an instant, the guard is down, the drawbridge open, and we admit that we aren’t self-made or even self-sustained.  The castle of our lives has always had a Guardian, a Protector. All that we are, and all we have, and every structure that secures us has been given, not deserved. Even what we say we’ve “earned” is undeniably built on gifts too numerous to count. When I say “thanks,” I confess that there is something—Someone—wider, bigger, and more gracious than any defense I muster or every good I do. So we learn grace through gratitude.  And even as we teach our children to “Say thank-you,” the Spirit prompts us each to murmur private “Hallelujahs.” Throw wide the gates, and cross the moat. Release yourself. And stay in grace. -Bill Knott

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The greatest illusion isn’t some card trick that leaves us gasping, or rabbits pulled from a performer’s hat. No, far greater is the fantasy that makes us think we’ll satisfy God’s holiness by saying “no” to salty snacks, or overcome our deficits by working longer, harder, better. This “sleight of hand” is hardly slight, for we deceive ourselves whenever we pretend our brokenness is of the fingernail—instead of the fatal—kind. Grace requires we surrender our illusion that heaven is within our grasp. Only Jesus’ wounded hands will ever lift us from our mud. When we’ve come to doubt ourselves the most, we’re ready to put all our trust in Him. Grace always is an “all or nothing” offer. Jesus gives us all His righteousness: we bring nothing to the performance. We’ve got no rabbits in the hat, nor extra cards tucked up our sleeves. 

“In my hand no price I bring.

Simply to Thy cross I cling.”

So stay in grace. -Bill Knott

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