Titus 2:11-13 For the grace of God has appeared for the salvation of all men, training us to renounce irreligion and worldly passions, and to live sober, upright, and godly lives in this world, awaiting our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,
This is an important Christmas texts, and it may be that only Lutherans can hear it with rejoicing. Its not a popular text, because according to the world, we should indulge our passions, not renounce them, also the virtues of being patient, sober, upright and godly are not held in high regard. There are many people who look at this text, and say – if this is what I must do to be saved, then I’m not certain I want to be saved – it is not hard to say this, if you can’t remember what you are being saved from, and why you cannot save yourself – for the world says, being a Christian, is just God saving you from having any fun at all, having a dull boring and ordinary life. The world says being a Christian is a lot of work.
But what does the text say?
You see, the Christmas gospel is not about what we must do to be saved, but about what God has done to bring us salvation! That’s why these are good tiding of great joy. Lets look at this more closely.
This day, there are presents and gifts under the tree – we speak of the grace of God as a gift, the difference between what is under the tree, and what is from God can be seen in this way – what is under the tree can be seen as things we have earned, we earned them by being good, therefore we deserve them, and there is not much gratitude if we are only receiving what we earn and deserve. But the grace of God is, as though you were very bad, and had done nothing to earn or deserve anything except wrath and punishment, instead of toys, it’s a lump of coal, black to remind you of your sin, a reminder of the hell your sins deserve – but you don’t get what you deserve, you get something wonderful, even if you’ve been bad – for God sent his son to save sinners. That’s the grace of God, a free gift, given to the people who need it most – given to all people. Christmas is about the baby Jesus in the manger, God giving up heaven, to bring to us sinners salvation.
There is quite a contrast between the Santa Claus of the world’s Christmas, and the Christ’s Christmas. Who’s making a list, checking it twice, gonna find our who’s naughty and nice – and who is bringing salvation to all people? But perhaps you thing you’ve really been that good, and you deserve everything you are receiving – if the wages of sin is death, and everyone sins much daily – is that really what you want to receive?
The word works faith in our hearts, God works in us and by grace through faith, makes us a new creation. There are 2 parts of the Christian life, we speak of them under the terms of justification and sanctification – justification is where God forgives our sins, and gives us eternal life, it happens immediately, and completely – when we are saved, we are completely saved, there is no one who is half saved, or part saved – God in Christ forgives our sins, that’s how we are saved.
But sanctification, that’s where God works a change in us, and it happens little by little, at baptism we become a child of God, and from that time forward we continue to grow as a child of God, until we reach maturity. As we grow as a child of God, we are changed, and one of the changes that occur, is that our passions no longer control us, but there is no loss, for they are replaced with something better, something which is both good and everlasting. And the good news is that this is not something we must do, but this is something God does.
Christmas is all about what God does for us – that is why it is the good tidings of great joy, not just for us, but for all people – and that is why we continue to tell the old, old story, of Jesus and his love.