"The Loving-Kindness of God Has Appeared" - Titus 3:4-7 - Christmas Day
[Titus 3:4-7] But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
The Loving Kindness of God Has Appeared
There it is, shining red and gold – maybe some greens or white or silver. A tag. Maybe a bow. Definitely too much tape. You’re unwrapping the gift, what will you find?
A gift with thought behind it can change the heart. When you open the gift – from your kid, from your spouse – and you can tell they really meant it, that there was kindness and thoughtfulness in the giving, that gift grows the bond of love. A gift speaks.
How much more if it’s a gift from someone you weren’t on good terms with. A gift from someone you wronged. That person you felt you needed to avoid all that time – you hoped not to run into them at the store – the phone rings, I hope it’s not them – you’ve stayed on the other side of the church so as to avoid interaction. Your guilty conscience. Avoidance. Like Adam hiding in the garden.
But on Christmas morning, you pull back the wrapping paper, and it’s from that person – a well thought out and heartfelt gift. Peace. They know you. They still love you. The anger and tension, the avoidance, it can be gone. Forgiveness. A gift heals.
This Christmas Day Scripture reading, the Epistle lesson, from Titus 3:4-7, says that we are not saved – we do not appease God – by our gift to Him, by our “works done by us in righteousness”. We are like Adam fleeing from the presence and voice of God in the garden. The conscience knows and feels the wrong and separation our own sins have caused.
And no gift from us to God can make peace. Our works are tainted. Instead, God – the one wronged – gives the gift. On Christmas morning, He has given the gift to us that makes peace. “The goodness and loving kindness of our Savior has appeared.” A gift which reveals God’s heart for the conscience-seared sinner – that gift and loving kindness being the birth of His Son into the world.
On Christmas morning, the wrapping was undone and God’s loving kindness toward you was revealed in the giving of that Child born to be your Savior. “You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” [Matthew 1:21]
A gift does heal. The gift of Jesus born means the saving presence of God among man. In our Christmas Day Old Testament, Exodus 40:17-21,34-38, you hear about the presence of God overshadowing and filling the tabernacle, so that God dwelled among His people in a cloud of smoke.
This foreshadows the gift God has given for us in Christmas. The angel said to Mary, “The power of the Most High will overshadow you – the Holy Spirit will come upon you – therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.” Instead of filling a tent, a tabernacle, in the virgin birth of Christmas morning, God has now filled human flesh, born of Mary, to dwell among us as one of us – Jesus, the Son of God, and God-with-us.
A perfect gift from perhaps the purest wrapping – but to save the impure and pardon the guilty. And to then impart God’s purity even to our flesh.
The gift born was given to justify – to make us right with God again, “God and sinners reconciled”. The gift born was given that we may become sharers of His inheritance, “that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
Instead of fear and avoidance, we’ve been given grace – God’s good disposition and good will toward us. The gift of His Son works for us the gift of eternal life. Nevermore separated from our God.
Indeed, this Child born today is the life and light of men – “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it”.
“He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, yet the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.”
“But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name (Jesus), He gave the right to become children of God (a gift), who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” [John 1:1-14]
He was born for you that you may be born of God, and you are. Each of you who has been born of God in Baptism – “born of water and the spirit” [John 3:5] – for you, every day, this gift of Jesus-born is fully and completely yours and is being unwrapped in your life. “He has saved us… according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration.” Every day the gift of Jesus-born is yours, according to His own mercy.
A gift speaks. A gift heals. This gift which God gives is indeed the very speaking of God – Jesus-born is the Word of God made flesh. “The Word of God became flesh and dwelt among us.”
“If I were to encounter God today, what would He have to say to me?” What God has to say to you is seen in the gift that He gave on Christmas Day – “the goodness and lovingkindness of our God and Savior has appeared.” Amen.