“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly, while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” (Titus 2:11 – 13)
Again, today, I am using both passages from the “Nativity of the Lord” (three sets of verses) and passages from the “First Sunday After Christmas”. Yesterday it might have been hard to discern which Old Testament Passage came from which set. Today I am more clear.
I was delighted that two of the “Nativity of the Lord” cited from the book of Titus. And I thought it might give us a bigger taste of what the apostle had to say and what the designers of the RCL felt were appropriate to Christmas.
“He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.” (Verse 14)
It is understood, but not stated, that the writers of the epistles were not writing for the purpose of Advent, Christmas, or any of the other seasons of the church year. They were writing to inform their readers of the perceptions and insights they had of Jesus the Christ and the Christian life.
“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. This Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:4 – 7)
It is little wonder, as I read these passages, that Jesus’ birth has been tightly woven into the purpose and ministry of Jesus the Messiah. And I had to wonder why prior to this year I had held apart the birth of Jesus Christ from the life and example of Jesus Christ. I think one reason is that we hear so little of the growing up years of Jesus: we first hear about his birth, then his being presented at the temple and the testimony of Simeon and Anna. Then he we see/hear about him as a youth at the temple. And, finally, he is presented full-grown and ready to start his mission, ministry, and journey. His birth became significant only because of Who and What he grew to become. A second reason, I think, is because at his birth Jesus was a gift & blessing from the Divine, and a promise that would be fulfilled. The content of the promise, however, depended on who you asked.
“As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:12-17)
Back on December 17th I talked about Mary going to visit Elizabeth, and Elizabeth’s baby leaping at the presence of his Master (all in utero). I talked about the Christmas song “Mary, Did You Know?” and highlight the passage and thought that Mary may or may not have known what Jesus would grow up to do. At Christmas time we are focused (okay, I am) on the baby Jesus and do not often look beyond the manager and the coming of the Magi. By “staying in the moment” we do not see down the road to what Jesus will become nor the example he will set for us. The song “Mary, Did You Know?” was most probably the first Advent/Christmas song that I heard which put the baby Jesus next to the adult Jesus and asked the listener to consider and compare.
I guess maybe since that time I have been slowly drawing the two ends into a continuous circle – much as the rhythm of the church year often does. We finish out Ordinary Time and then plunge back into the beginning. I had for many years tried NOT to let the church year become one celebration & event sliding into the other, but wanted to give each distinct movement its due. This year, or at least this Advent/Christmas season I have been on a “slippery slope.” And I am finding reward in that.
May you, beloved reader, hold within your spirit and soul the complete story of Jesus’ life – from beginning to end. And may it bring you new insights and learning. Shalom & Selah!