Posted by: St. Mark Lutheran Church | December 24, 2012

Sermon on Titus 2:11-14 (Christmas Eve)

Jesus is the gift that keeps on giving

Downloadable version

In the name of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh. 

We like to say:  “This is the gift that keeps on giving.”  Many businesses apply that title to their product.    They hope to induce someone to buy their thing because it’s such an incredible gift – it keeps on giving.  Most of the time, we discover that at some point the gift stops giving.  The subscription runs out.  The sparkle fades.  The interest isn’t what it used to be.  Some do better than others, but, in the end, every gift has only a certain, limited life of giving in it.

Except one.  Since it’s Christmas Eve, and since you’re at church, and since it’s a Christian church, I feel pretty confident that you already know where I’m going with this.  That won’t stop me from saying it again.  But I think as we consider Titus 2 tonight, we’ll see it from some different angles than we’re used to.

One of our mistakes is to view Jesus only in the past tense.  Jesus came.  Jesus lived.  Jesus died, etc.  We think of the gift as something given thousands of years ago in a time far removed from us and our experiences and understanding.  On the one hand, it’s true.  Those things happened in the past, and it’s important to acknowledge that they are historical facts, whether they happened 2,000 years ago or 20.  Mary did give birth to Jesus.  Jesus did live for 30-some years.  Jesus did die on the cross under Pontius Pilate.

But on the other hand, these facts really do transcend past history.  I’m not saying that as so many liberal theologians do, those guys who try to separate the historical Jesus from the biblical Christ, who like to say, “What does Jesus mean to you?”  What I mean is that while the Word became flesh at a certain moment in history and lived, died, and rose again on days we can mark on a calendar – “While Quirinius was governor of Syria,” “In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar,” “crucified under Pontius Pilate,” – what He did was so much more than merely historical.  Paul tells Titus that the saving grace of God appeared to all men.

That phrase “all men” makes Christmas more than merely historical.  It became more than merely historical when the angels said to the shepherds that they had good news of great joy for all the people (Luke 2:10, NIV84) and when Jesus told His disciples to baptize all nations, to preach the Gospel to all creation, to preach repentance and forgiveness of sins to all people!  It’s more than merely historical because Jesus, the saving grace of God, appeared to bring salvation for all men by giving Himself up for us.  The solution to mankind’s sin problem lay crying in the place where cows normally ate.  The forgiveness of our sins waited for mom to feed Him.

It seems obvious, but, just in case it’s not, the birth of a baby changes a lot of things in life, but the birth of this baby changed life for everybody.  Because He’s God’s gift, He’s the saving grace of God.  He came to cleanse and purify a people for Himself.  He came to take away our wickedness and lawlessness and replace it with zealousness, to replace it with a people eager to do what is good (Titus 2:14, NIV84).  And this is Jesus being the gift that keeps on giving.

The saving grace of God came and brings us salvation through faith in Him.  And this salvation teaches us something, Paul says:  To say no to ungodliness and worldly passions and to say yes to self-controlled, upright and godly lives (Titus 2:12, NIV84).  We’re taught how to live and breathe as one of God’s people, one of God’s redeemed and purified people.  His very own people.  Eager to give as we’ve been given.  It’s what we do.  It’s a gift of God, from God, to us.  “You were wicked and lawless, now you are righteous and law-abiding.”  It’s the compulsion Paul tells the Corinthians about, For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.  And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again (2 Cor. 5:14-15, NIV84).  Thankfully, graciously, mercifully, wonderfully, God teaches us this.  It’s part of His saving grace.  It’s part of Christ.  It’s the grace and truth He brings and gives to you through faith.  Through faith you know Christ.  And through faith you live Christ, who loved you and gave Himself for you.

Again, the greatest mistake you can make is to think of this all as past action.  Jesus died for me.  It’s over.  Probably tomorrow afternoon or on Wednesday much of the excitement and enthusiasm of Christmas will have been drained from you.  You’ve opened the presents.  You’ve eaten the ham or turkey.  Your family and friends have left (or, worse, they’re still here!).  You’ve gained a few pounds.  You have to take down the decorations.  You have to go back to work or school.  Some gifts.  Likewise, Jesus died for me.  But I’m still stuck here.  What do I do in the meantime?  Jesus came and gives us something to wait for:  Him!

The saving grace of God appeared once in a manger.  The saving grace of God teaches us how to say “no” to the world and “yes” to God and His ways.  And that helps us bide the time.  The saving grace of God teaches us to say “no” to the world while we wait for the blessed hope – the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13, NIV84).  Think of it as Epiphany, part two.  Jesus revealed Himself once – a Savior in a manger bed.  He’ll reveal Himself again.  To take us to the place where there is no more ungodliness and no more worldly pleasures, to the place where there is only love, and joy, and peace, and patience, and kindness, and goodness, and self-control.  To the place where we no longer have to wait for the saving grace of God to appear, but to the place where He lives and dwells, His house, His heaven, and by faith in the saving grace of God who appeared on the first Christmas to redeem us and purify us from all our sins, that heaven will be our home.  Jesus is truly the gift that keeps on giving.  Amen.

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