A sermon on Titus 3 by Rev Richard Keith on Christmas Day 2021
A few years ago, I was driving along the Newell Highway in central NSW to West Wyalong. I was tense, worried, leaning forward, straining my eyes to look at the road ahead. The next moment I relaxed. I breathed easier. I didn’t have a care in the world. I hadn’t just passed a truck. I hadn’t just missed a kangaroo. What I had witnessed was the breaking of dawn. The sun had risen and had cast its light and banished the darkness around me.
Our reading from Isaiah is the promise of the coming of light to those living in darkness. Not to those just sleeping safely through the darkness, but to whose lives are surrounded by fear and gloom and despair. They walk in darkness. They live in a land of shadow. Their life is darkness. They are assaulted by men of violence who take away joy and hope so that love grows weak and cold.
But for them the light has dawned so that the people not only see the light but by that light they see everything else. It is a light that brings joy. It is a light that brings victory. It is a light that brings an end to war, that brings true lasting peace. It is a light that shines at the coming of a child of promise, a child who will not stay a child, but who will grow up and live to be the one who brings peace.
We are the people who live in darkness.
But to us a child is born. To us a son is given. And the government will be upon his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Sadly, for Isaiah he remained a child of promise and in his time the darkness deepened.
The reading from Luke is the announcement of the coming of light. The shepherds were hard at work. They were not lifting heavy boxes. They were not fixing broken fences. But they were simply staying awake, outdoors at night, watching the sheep. They lived and worked in darkness. But suddenly a light shone. The glory of God appeared at the coming of an angel who announced the dawning of an even greater light. The angel said to them,
Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you. You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.
What was promised through Isaiah had appeared. The dawn that generations had waited for had risen and its light shone with heavenly glory. That glory came in the birth of a son, a child for us. Not just Mary’s baby, but the man whom Mary’s baby grew up to be. A man for us all.
And we see the light of his glory shining in unexpected places. In the manger of Bethlehem. In the carpenter’s shop in Nazareth. Walking beside the sea of Galilee. Touching the lepers. Eating and drinking with sinners. Condemning the rich and the proud. Teaching the poor and the humble. Rejected by his people. Condemned by the government. Carrying his cross. Giving his life. Appearing alive but still bearing the scars of his suffering. We live in darkness and we look for light in all the wrong places. But the true light of God shines in this one perfect life. So that we not only see his light, but by that light we see everything else. So that we might no longer live in darkness, but live in light.
The reading from Titus is the summons of the coming of light. It calls us to leave the darkness and to walk by the light of Jesus Christ.
At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Saviour appeared, 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, whom he poured out on us generously so that having been justified by his grace we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.
Once we lived in darkness. But the darkness rules no more, but has been banished by the coming of the light of Jesus Christ. It summons us to leave the darkness behind and to live in and by the light. Not by the tiny candles of our own good works which are still surrounded by darkness but by the shining of the sun of the grace of God in Jesus Christ which is ours by his Spirit before which the darkness is helpless. He has set us free so that we are no longer slaves to our own self-destruction, but so that by the child of God born in Bethlehem we might be the children of God.
One quick glance at the headlines in the paper is enough to show how deep the darkness is around us. Stealing our joy and hope, so that love grows weak and cold. Sometimes we feel like we are straining our eyes down the road of life, worried about what is coming ahead. But at Christmas time we celebrate the breaking of dawn. The light has come and the darkness is helpless before it. And the light summons us like the shepherds to leave the darkness and to bathe in his light. So that we might not only see the light of Jesus, but by his light to see the truth of everything around us.