For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who 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.
—Titus 2:11-14 (TNIV)
This week we have been exploring the biblical notion of love. Tomorrow night we will begin the great Christmas celebration and remember with thanksgiving God’s condescension to save us from the sin that separates us from him. In the birth of Jesus Christ, God reminds us that we are important to him, that we have worth. We are reminded that God’s creation is good, albeit fallen, and that God has entered our history to begin to put things aright. Christmas means that we are not alone, we have not been abandoned. Yes, hardships and heartaches will come because we live in a fallen world, but they will last only for a season. The Incarnation reminds us that God loves us and wants to restore us to enjoy the kind of relationship with him we were created to have. The story of Christmas is the beginning of God’s gracious invitation to us to live with him forever. It means we ultimately have hope that all of our wrongs and the wrongs of this world will be put aright.
But as Paul reminds us in today’s Epistle lesson, God’s love for us is also transformative. God is holy and will not allow evil to live or abide in his kingdom. That means when we say “yes” to God’s invitation to live with him through Jesus Christ, we must do our part and say “no” to the things that separate us from God. We must allow God’s Spirit to work in us and transform us into the very likeness of Christ. Because God’s gracious invitation to us in Christ is an invitation to enter into a life-giving relationship, it demands a response from us the way any legitimate relationship does. It requires that we will do our part and work hard to become like him, all the time realizing that transformation is impossible without God’s help through the Presence of his Holy Spirit. The Christian faith is no self-help religion. The story of Christmas signals the beginning of the Good News that the Christian faith is a God-help religion. It is a relationship with the Living God who loves us and redeems us. We no longer have to try to do the impossible because God has done it for us in Jesus Christ.
At Christmas, God took on our flesh and began his mighty and eternal plan for our redemption and salvation. Let us rejoice that this God of ours loves us and wants us to live with him forever. Let us give thanks for his great mercy and compassion to his broken people and fallen creation. Let us open ourselves to his transformative and life-giving Presence with joy and resolution. Joy to the world, the Lord has come!
This ends my series of Advent reflections. Have you enjoyed them? Would you like to see me continue to do something like this on a regular basis? Drop me a line or leave a comment with your feedback. Advent blessings and Merry Christmas to you and yours!