A sermon on Titus 2 by Rev Richard Keith on Christmas Eve 2021
In his book “A Christmas Carol” Charles Dickens tells the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, a cruel, tight-fisted, hard hearted man who makes life miserable for his tenants and employees. But on Christmas Eve he is visited by three ghosts. The Ghost of Christmas Past reminds him of the joy and hope of his youth. The Ghost of Christmas Present opens his eyes to the suffering he is causing to others. And the Ghost of Christmas Future reveals what people will think of him after he is gone. Without giving away the ending the experience changes Scrooge’s life forever.
In the same way Titus chapter 2 delivers the message of Christmas Past, of Christmas Present and Christmas Future.
We find the message of Christmas Past in verse 11.
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all people.
It speaks of the grace of God. God’s undeserved kindness. His mercy. His surprising compassion. We experience grace in small amounts in our daily lives. When we hit the perfect drive down the fairway. When we put our hand in our pocket and find a $20 note we didn’t expect. When a stranger finds our wallet in the carpark and goes out of their way to return it.
But the message of Christmas Past is that the grace we experience in drips and drops flooded our world once and for all in the village of Bethlehem. That the grace of God was packaged and wrapped and given in the birth of Jesus Christ. And this remarkable birth was only the beginning of a remarkable life. A life like no other. A life of power that was used not for his own benefit, but for the benefit of others. A life of love that wasn’t hoarded just for family and friends, but reached out to include strangers and enemies. A life of truth that practiced what he preached and stood up for what is right against what is wrong. A life of sacrifice that didn’t just give his time or money but gave his all, his life, his reputation, his honour for the sake of all others.
This grace, this compassion, this life and death and new life, this man Jesus Christ is the one who brings salvation to all people. He brings salvation. Rescue. Deliverance. To those who were drowning in their self-love and self-hate. To those who were lost wasting their lives on pleasing themselves. He brings salvation to all, regardless of class and race.
With his Father he made them all. They all belong to him. They all answer to him. They all receive his gift of grace. Of mercy. Of life. This is the message of Christmas Past. The one remarkable life lived for all so that all may live in him.
We find the message of Christmas Present in verse 12.
It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.
What happened in the past reaches us in the present. What happened there and then does not leave us untouched in the here and now. Just as the visit of the three ghosts changed the life of Ebenezer Scrooge forever, so the one, perfect life of Jesus Christ transforms our lives. His birth, his actions, his words, his sacrifice, his victory over death and hate and hell in his death and resurrection teach us. They instruct us. His grace does not just give us another life when we have used up this life. But it gives us a completely different life to live in this life.
It teaches us. It teaches us to say No and Yes. It teaches us to say No to an old way of life. A life of ungodliness and worldly passions. A life that doesn’t know its place in the world that God has made and therefore does not respect the natural boundaries of life. A life that refuses to serve, to kneel, to give. A life that demands to rule, to dominate, or to be just left alone. A life that refuses to live. A life that will be remembered for all the wrong reasons. A life that is out of balance, out of harmony with God, with other human beings and with the world around it. A life that refuses to acknowledge either its Creator, or the humanity of its neighbour. It is life without grace, and the grace of God in Jesus Christ teaches us to say No to it.
And to say Yes to grace. Yes to a life that is self-controlled, in balance, in harmony, not ruled by our feelings, but channelling our feelings into what is good and right and appropriate. Yes to a life that is upright, not stuck up and better than anyone else, but just and fair, in harmony with our neighbour, treating others as we would want to be treated. Yes to a life that is godly. A life lived with God and for God for the God who lived with us and for us in the life of Jesus Christ. Self-controlled, upright and godly.
It is not a restricted life. A narrow life. A prison life. But the life that has been truly set free in balance with itself, with its neighbour and with its creator. This is the message of Christmas Present. It opens our eyes to the truth and changes us forever.
We find the message of Christmas Future in verse 13.
While we wait for the blessed hope – the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
The message of Christmas Future reminds us that we are people of hope. People with a hope. A blessed hope. A hope that brings blessing, all that is good about life. A hope that reminds us that there is something better in store for us than the bad news that fills the paper. That the course of the world is not set by those who kill and destroy and rob us of our joy and hope. But that the course of the world is set by the God who made it and by his Son Jesus Christ who was born and lived and died to take it back. This world does not belong to the devil or to COVID or to the random currents of fate. But it belongs to the grace of God who appeared once in Bethlehem and who is coming again.
The message of Christmas Future reminds us that in this world of tears we look forward to the coming of Jesus who will wipe away all our tears. And to bring in the new heaven and earth where there will be no crying or pain. Life as it was meant to be. Until that new life comes we live the new life now as a witness to the world that its ways are coming to an end and that a new world is coming.
And so lastly we find the message of Christmas Past, Present and Future all wrapped up and tied up with string in verse 14.
Our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.
The grace of God appeared once and for all. It is not a thing, it is not just a feeling or an experience, but a person, Jesus Christ. The perfect life who gave himself there and then so that here and now we might give ourselves for him and for others. He is ours. He belongs to us so that in the present and in the future we might be his and belong to him.