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The Gospel of Grace and a Starbucks Barista

With almost five dollars left on my gift card, I could not resist the opportunity to buy a coffee drink on my way to work. Feeling the need for a morning pick-me-up, I pulled into the drive-through lane at our neighborhood Starbucks on what promised to be a very busy day. I ordered my drink and I was only too eager to pull out my gift card. The barista scanned my card, gave me a receipt, and then he said, “You’re all set; you just owe five cents.” Now that might not sound like a lot of money, but after you’ve searched your pockets, the console in your car, and your wallet only to find nothing, five cents seems like an insurmountable amount of money. One nickel stood between me and a coveted coffee drink that a loyal Starbucks worker was hesitant to hand over.

 Drowning in a sea of embarrassment and desire, I made my plea: “Look, I just work down the street. I promise to come back later and pay the difference.” I could tell the man behind the counter was less than convinced of my plan; I knew he was busy; and I was fully expecting him to say, “Oh yeah…I’ve heard this one before.” But instead, he handed me my beverage and he said, “It’s OK. I’ve got this one for you. Have a good day man. OK?” All I could say was “thank you” as I reached for the cup and noticed the words to this year’s campaign on their signature red and white holiday cup: “Give Good.” I slowly drove away stunned by a random act of kindness.

 One simple gesture reminded me of the enormity of God’s grace. In a world where news of violence, greed, human suffering, and natural disaster seem to flash across our television and computer screens with more alarming regularity, I need to be reminded of the profound gift of God’s grace. God sent the Savior into our world because God refuses to give up on us no matter how much we fall short of God’s righteousness. No matter how good I am, no matter how hard I try, I will never meet God’s standards. And just like that five-cent difference between a gift card and the price of a coffee drink, we will always fall short.

 The child whose birth we celebrate at Christmas came into our world to give what we could never provide for ourselves. God gave the world the gift of a Savior to pay the difference between our feeble attempts to earn God’s grace and the measure of God’s righteousness. Christ became poor so that we might become spiritually rich. The Apostle Paul speaks of God’s extravagant grace in a verse that inspired one of my favorite Christmas Carols, “Thou Who Wast Rich Beyond All Splendor.” Paul writes, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).

As you open your Christmas gifts this year, take a moment to say, “Thank you, Lord” because God gave the world the supreme gift of goodness and grace. And don’t forget to enjoy that morning cup of coffee wherever you find yourself in the busyness of this wonderful season and look for every opportunity to do good because God did good in our world!

© Adrian N. Doll, Green Valley Presbyterian Church, 2017

Starbucks Logo and Graphics used with permission by Starbucks.

Photo by Allen Merritt 2017.

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