Just a few days ago, as the sun was beginning to fall in the western sky, I found myself racing against the clock to make some progress on an important outdoor project, attempting to complete this work before the onset of winter. With saw and hammer, I set my focus upon the task of completing some simple framing, but in the process I inadvertently nailed several boards in an improper location.
Despite all the years of accumulating knowledge and experience in this field and despite my intention of doing a good job, I had done something that I’m never proud of doing. I had made a mistake.
Believe me, I am more than qualified to make that statement. I’ve made innumerable mistakes over the years of my life, and my dossier of mistake-making is more extensive than I am happy to admit. I’ve made mistakes in judgement, logic, and perception. I’ve made errors in decision-making, listening, speaking, and doing. I seriously doubt that there’s even one aspect of my life into which mistake-making hasn’t insidiously entered.
When I was a young man, I probably would have taken a sledgehammer to the framing mistake, demolishing what I had to work with, and leaving no alternative but to start all over again. That’s a human option, but it’s expensive. I’m not young anymore. My hands didn’t reach for a sledgehammer, but instead they picked up a tool called a “cat’s paw”, designed to discretely retract an embedded nail without causing too much damage to the overall work. Carefully, I applied the physics of this tool to my framing error and in a few well-spent minutes I was able to undo the wrong I had done without being destructive.
2000 years ago, a little baby boy was born to an unmarried and bewildered couple in a town called Bethlehem of Judea, half-way around the world from the region we call home. His newly born body was swaddled in long strips of cloth and placed in a borrowed, crudely built manger as His family had no proper cradletoputintouse. Thirty-three years later His scourged and flesh-torn body,now dead,would be removed from a Roman cross of crucifixion, wrapped in long strips of cloth again, and placed in a borrowed grave.
Without God’s grace, the life of Jesus, from birth to death, would arguably be just another sad portrait of a life riddled with the results of mistakes that have always plagued the human race. With God’s grace, however, His life becomes the miracle of salvation and the emblem for all true human progress. Jesus is the instrument, the tool, of divine grace that God sent into the world to repair all the mistakes we make without making things worse. Jesus is the personification of God’s grace in this world. He is the living incarnation of God’s will, not to condemn but to correct, to build rather than demolish, to be constructive instead of destructive.
Our world is self-destructing under the sledgehammer swing of pride, hostility, hatred, terrorism, violence, senselessness, bigotry, judgmentalism, and meanness. We are hurting one another, hurting the human race, hurting God, and hurting the cause of the Christ whom God sent into the world to save. Our pride and arrogance have grown large and heavy like the head of a 20-pound sledge and we ignore the delicate utility of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, God’s “cat’s-paw” in the Divine Builder’s Toolbox.
Nearly 28 years ago, Hosanna Industries was born to be an instrument of grace in God’s world. The mission has never known a day since its beginning on which destructiveness could not have prevailed. But we were and are called by Christ to be constructive, to build rather than destroy, to help rather than to hurt, to heal rather than injure. We have been invited to share in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and what a year of grace this has been! Since last Christmas, the mission’s service log reports that we have been privileged to help 161 needy households, work with 1675 volunteers, and use all of the gifts generously given to build more than two million dollars worth of equity in this world. We have made blunders, errors, mistakes in various ways, but God’s grace has been sufficient in correcting the way without condemning the work. God’s grace always prevails if we allow it to work.
Very soon, the Holiday Season will be upon us once more. For a little while, the world will be full of the signs of Christmastime. Lights, decorations, trees, presents, parties, carols and candles will ornament our experience, but will we grasp the profound and transforming meaning of it all? Sledgehammers work, if demolition is what you are aiming to do. But must we behave with demolition in mind? Isn’t there a better alternative? Christmas means there is a better alternative and its name is Grace in the person of Jesus.
With this newsletter, you will find enclosed our traditional Christmas present to you, dear friend. It’s another Hosanna hand-made Christmas tree ornament, our 24th in a row, this one made by Amy out of the same kind of canning lid that the mission has used for many years in harvesting God’s produce from the garden and in processing thousands of jars of good food for hungry people. I hope you enjoy it as you include it in your Christmas decorations this year. We give this little gift to you with all the grace we have been given, reminding you as well as ourselves that Christmas is always a choice, because Christ is always the most important choice a person can ever make. This Christmas, choose Christ. Choose His ways of love and forgiveness, peace and reconciliation. Give Christ a chance to correct rather than condemn. You will be amazed at what the Master Carpenter can do if you let Him carefully do His work. Perhaps as you light a candle this Christmas Eve, please know from the bottom of Hosanna’s heart, how very grateful we are for you and for all that you do to help us carry on in our work. Please continue to pray for us, remembering the worth of God’s grace in this world, His grace made known to the world in and through your own precious life, and sing with your voice of faith together with God’s children everywhere:
Silent night, Holy night, Son of God, Love’s Pure Light!
Radiant beams from Thy Holy Face,With the dawn of redeeming Grace, Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth, Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth!
Love and grace to you with unending gratitude, dear Hosanna friend, this Season and always,