Christmas Day St Petri
But when the kindness and love of God our Saviour appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Saviour, 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.
Friends, I think it will be good today, on Christmas Day for me to not get you to ponder what Christmas is supposed to be ABOUT, but rather to help you receive the good news of what Christmas actually does to you and for you and then, what Christmas calls you to do.
Christmas actually does things to us because this Saviour-child did things and is still doing things he began back in that shed. That is what Paul is saying in his letter to Titus.
Paul is helping Titus and his local church community to ponder the depths of what God has done in this Jesus of Nazareth and how he is meant to affect new lives, new relationships, new behaviour, new heart in those who have been on the receiving end of ‘the kindness and love of God our Saviour” who appeared to save us.
Christmas changes us and calls us to respond.
Of course, it is safer to keep Christmas happy and traditional family time. Nothing wrong with family or tradition. But if that is all this celebration is for you who have been on the receiving end of the kindness and love of God, that is short-changing God and this Christ-Child.
So, what is Christmas meant to do for this local Christian community?
Before we ponder Paul’s response to that, we need to be clear how anyone ever knows for sure that they have truly been on the receiving end of the kindness and love of God who is Saving sinners not condemning them.
How do you know you are loved by a God who is very kind to you? Paul locates our hope, our confidence, our identity, the moment when all the kindness and love of this Jesus came to each of personally, by name, within the gospel community – “the washing of rebirth”. Baptism.
Baptism tells you that you have been treated very kindly in a lot of love by this baby boy who would go on to be baptised in all our human suffering, violence and death for the whole world so that we all have a new hope, a new life, a new hope for our life.
So, baptised, loved person of our kind God, you are now right with the creator of all things ‘not because of righteous things we had done “, says Paul, but only by the righteous things this Jesus has done for you.
He is underserved kindness and mercy from go to woe for you.
I wonder if at Christmas time it is a bit easier to receive this stunning good news. When you think about the witness Matthew and Luke give us, that is based on the ancient promises of prophets like Isaiah, it is fairly easy to see that God did all of this, not us!
The shepherds had no idea the angels and the singing would happen that night. Mary and Joe had no idea it would all happen in that shed. All the camel riders from the east had to go on was a single star.
Joe did not even make Mary pregnant. Herod did not make a new king come to power – in fact, as we know, he tried to extinguish the boy. It seems a bit easier to see at Christmas what Paul says here
But when the kindness and love of God our Saviour appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.
Everything is God’s doing and it is marvellous in our eyes!
And because God did all of this for us, this grace and kindness in the world is not dependent on us. It comes from outside us as a gift to us like present last night or today.
But, as Paul says, we are involved. We are required contributors. We are fully engaged in this new life, this new hope, this new light in any darkness.
How do we respond to this new hope we share? What is Christmas meant to drive us to be and do?
Well, of course, the first thing is out and out worship of this Saviour. Like those in the first moments we bow down in deep thankfulness for life we could never have, a hope we could never enjoy, a courage we could never conjure to live through all of our worries and fears and losses and mistakes.
In all of those things he “never puts us to shame” but promises to always lavish his gifts of kindness and love on us day by day. What a life!
So, like the Shepherds and the easteners, we give our lives, we give our hearts, we give our gifts to this gracious kind Saviour who has given himself for us to save us, free us, keep us free, keep us loving.
And that is where Paul directs Titus and the church. Worship is the first response, but then it remains our whole life response.
Christmas speaks love into us that is shared together for each other and for the stranger.
Here are some of the practicalities of loving each other according to Christmas.
“Therefore rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith 14 and will pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the merely human commands of those who reject the truth”. (Titus 1:13)
Speak together. Speak truthfully to each other and help each other avoid myths and lies and conspiracy theories and merely human directions and beliefs that are not founded on and coming from the truth of this Saviour’s word.
Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance. (Titus 2:2)
Seniors, being solid in faith and love for the long haul is to continue. This makes you worthy of the respect of the community and keeps you sound. And teach the faith and support the younger set in their marriages and parenting, as well as working on your own marriage so that all of this gives very little ammo for non-Christians to malign Jesus or his church.
Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. 7 In everything set them an example by doing what is good. (Titus 2:6-7)
Young adults, parents, teens, guard your words and attitudes and behaviours. Line yourself up with Jesus’ words and attitudes and keep at doing all the good you can as he does all his good in you.
Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, 10 and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Saviour attractive. (Titus 2:9-10)
Employees (in our culture) work well for these in charge as much as you can. Keep away from giving cheek and being cynical. Keep your hands in your own pockets and win trust, and not only to improve your own lot but to help people see Jesus in you.
Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, 2 to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone. (Titus 3:1-2)
And all of us, play our part in our community and country. As a church, be ever-ready to contribute out best for the good of friends and strangers.
Yes, give out those Christmas hampers. Give out those gift bags. Invite that friend. Serve that beautiful pork at Christmas Shed Happens! Play your part in the weekend gatherings. Call that person in need. Visit that person in hospital, write that card, serve in that community organisation, serve at work, especially when you are the boss.
And in all of that, work for God’s peace the Christ child has won for you and others as much as it is up to you, at work at home, down the street and Uni and school.
This is what affect Christmas is meant to have. Christmas does something to us because he has done everything good for us. That Christ-Child again calls us to keep doing something good.
Friends, we are ever-driven toward greater goodness and loving kindness toward others–all others.
And because of this gift of God; this baby boy, we gladly engage in this way of living, not because the Letter to Titus says to watch out if we don’t.
We do it because how we go about living among others carried this Jesus, this God with and for us. We have him and we carry him for each other and for this community.
And, in this wonder of Christmas, the wonder of God in human body with me and for me, I wonder what God might yet make of us.
In the coming of this baby appointed to save the whole world, we receive more than hope that things might turn out better for the world in some awaited future.
We dare to trust today, Christmas Day, that we in fact participate in such a grand future already today and into 2023 and beyond.
Let Christmas do its work on you. Do Christmas well as you carry the Saviour-boy. He’s our joy.
Today of all days we can trust that
… we are heirs with Jesus who have the hope of life forever with him.