It is that time of year again when people in every corner of the globe will be sending, ''Seasons Greetings''. Millions of greetings cards in endless variety will wing their way around the world in many languages. There will be cards for families and friends, for companions and colleagues, for neighbours and workfellows. Some will be large and ornate: others will be small and plain. Many will depict welcoming rooms with glowing yule fires and colourful trees ablaze with lights and surrounded by gifts. Some will portray snow scenes, with laughing children on sleighs and carol singers at the door. Others will have a nostalgic theme, with horse drawn carriages and elegant ladies in the elaborate dress and finery of a bygone age, while the little red-breasted robin will enjoy a very prominent place on many cards. But whatever the size or style, every card will convey ''Season's Greetings''!
How interesting it is that in the New Testament almost all the letters commence with greetings. Paul wrote thirteen letters to individuals and to churches of Christians in various places and every one of them begins with a greeting. Two letters from the apostle Peter also begin with greetings, so does one of the apostle John's three letters.
But these were not greetings for a particular season, they were greetings suited to every occasion and every person, and usually the greeting was, ''Grace and peace to you from God the Father''.
Grace and peace! Grace is a beautiful word. It implies some benefit or gift to someone who is unworthy. It expresses the liberality of the giver in a gift which can neither be purchased nor earned nor deserved. It is the unmerited favour of the donor. How gracious then is the ''God of all grace'' (1 Peter 5.10), and how grateful we should be, poor undeserving sinners with nothing to offer for our acceptance with Him, except His grace. He does not require our works or our efforts in exchange for the forgiveness which He offers. This has already been paid for by the precious blood of the Saviour who bore our sins in His own body on the cross of Calvary. God in grace can now pardon the guilty. So Paul writes, ''By grace are ye saved through faith... it is the gift of God, not of works lest any man should boast'' (Ephesians 2.8-9) ''The gift of God is eternal life'' (Romans 6.23).
Peace is the accompanying blessing for every repentant sinner who accepts this free gift of salvation. What blessing indeed for a troubled heart! What welcome calm for a conscience in turmoil because of sin. Once, when the Saviour was here on earth, He stood on the deck of a little boat in a storm on the Sea of Galilee. The fishermen were frightened, talking of perishing, until He rose and said ''Peace - be still''. The wind and waves obeyed Him and there was a great calm. Today He can do the same for troubled souls. His word can dispel every fear and impart peace.
Grace and peace is a beautiful greeting, not only for the festive season, but for any and every season! May we today hear anew this ancient greeting from the Bible. May it come to us with freshness and with power, bringing real joy and gladness at Christmas and always. Grace and peace to you.
J M Flanigan