Merry Christmas in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!
Saint Paul wrote the letter to Titus, the young pastor in charge of the church on the island of Crete, from Macedonia. Like the first letter to Timothy, this letter was not only addressed to his disciple, Titus, but also to the churches to which these men were sent as pastors. The form of greeting and the closing indicate that it is a formal letter.
Our text for this Christmas Eve is a declaration of the redemption of all mankind by the grace of God alone. It looks toward the fulfillment of the hope given by that redemption. "Waiting for that blessed hope, and the glorious manifestation of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all iniquity, and to purify for himself a peculiar people, zealous for good works."
But what "glorious manifestation" is he talking about? I think of the great work of the composer George Frederic Handel, “El Mesías”, an oratorio in English. The lyrics begin in Part I with prophecies from Isaiah and others, and move on to the annunciation to the shepherds. In Part II, Handel concentrates on the Passion and ends with the Hallelujah chorus. In Part III, he covers the resurrection of the dead and the glorification of Christ in heaven. Today, it is very common to hear the Hallelujah chorus in the Christmas season. Its lyrics consist only of “Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Because the Lord God Almighty reigns ”. In the context of the oratorio, the Hallelujah chorus refers to the great victory of Jesus Christ at His second coming, not to Christmas.
In the strict sense, "the glorious manifestation" of our text refers to the second coming of Christ. When Christ comes in glory, it will be the fulfillment of all the promises of God that we find in the Holy Scriptures. However, the first coming is part of this glorious manifestation that begins with the birth of Jesus in the manger. It is like the sun at its rising compared to the sun at noon.
The theme of all our readings this afternoon is light breaking through darkness. We encountered this theme the first time in the first verses of the book of Genesis, when God said: Let there be light; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good and God separated the light from the darkness.
Isaiah 9: 2-7 also says, “The people who walked in darkness saw great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, light shone upon them. And, of course, in the Christmas Eve account (Luke 2: 1-14), “And behold, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them ... And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly armies, who praised God, and said: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will towards men ”.
The nations were covered with the darkness of their idolatry. But just as the sun penetrates through the darkness, and fills the whole world with wonderful glory, so the grace of God shone in the person of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, born in Bethlehem. By bringing salvation to all men, this grace, this free favor of God, was revealed. This grace brings healing in the sickness of sin; brings liberation in danger of damnation.
But what does this good news mean for us? Not an easy life. The life of the Christian consists of an incessant rejection of everything that hinders his development in the service of God's grace. With faith in this grace living in the heart of the believer, the battle in his heart can only have one end, complete victory for the Spirit of God. It is by his power that Christians are enabled to live a life of self-mastery, integrity, and godliness in this world today. Regarding his own person, the Christian will live to control all the desires and temptations of his flesh; with respect to his neighbor, he refrains from doing him any harm; With regard to God, you will conduct yourself in a way that you fear, love and trust Him above all things, to honor Him and be obedient to Him.
As Christians lead their lives here on earth in continual remembrance of God's grace and the wonderful blessings they have been given, they also live in the glory of steadfast hope. At his coming this glory of our God and Savior Jesus Christ will be revealed. He who is God from eternity with the Father, who, in the fullness of time, took upon himself our own flesh and blood to earn us salvation, who now, according to this human nature, has been exalted to the right hand of God will return in glory for the judgment of all mankind. Paul definitely says that salvation is obtained and is ready for all men: who gave himself for us in our place. Jesus Christ offered himself, gave his life, as our substitute. With unspeakable and unattainable love and mercy, He brought this sacrifice of His own body and life in our place, to save us from certain death and damnation, as we were by nature children of wrath. He paid the price of redemption, His blood, His life, whose divine preciousness was so great that it surpassed the sins of the whole world. Thus, He has redeemed us from the iniquity in which we are simply trapped by nature, from the injustice and transgression that characterized our entire lives.
By the power of Christ's redemption, I am no longer in the power of sin and transgression. Together with all other believers, with whom we form the communion of saints, the holy Christian Church, the people of God, we fight for the sanctification and renewal of the image of God in us. We are studious, diligent, zealous in good works; it is our constant effort to excel in a life of love that pleases our heavenly Father. On this peaceful night, may the peace that passes all understanding be with you. Amen.
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