Scripture: Titus 2:11-14 (NRSV)
“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. 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.”
For the grace of God has appeared! Sit in an easy chair thinking about this passage. I am looking at a tree covered with lights and waiting for family to arrive so we can njoy a Christmas lunch and supper. But since my mind wonders I began to read and pray.
I do not minister in a Meeting or church where we have midnight services or Christmas morning services, although I guess if I suggested it we would. So while many of you have already or are worshipping, I was just sitting here thinking of the awsomeness of Christmas.
Have we ever really thought of what Jesus did for us when he came to be born that cold morning in Judea? We quickly turn our attention to the salvation and sacrifice he provided for us on the passion cross, but that is just a small part of His ministry. Jesus came live among us.
When I was studying at Friends University my theology professor Dr. Christian Kettler continuously rant about the vicarious humanity of Christ. I thought I knew what he was saying. I mean I read books about the subject. I have even read some of Dr. Kettler’s books. I guess I understood the concept but never really considered the emotional and mystical aspects of this mysteriously divine exchange.
God’s grace appeared as a child, hidden from pomp, in a stable. Mystery number one. God’sgrace came in under the radar so to speak. I have not really considered this mystery before, but it somewhat ties into the parables this baby will eventually tell. The treasure is found and then suddenly the world changes around the one that find it. It was hidden from everyone except those that seek, or have eyes to see. I know that that sounds like God is being exclusive but that is part of that mystery. How many times have I walked or driven by a tree or a stone formation that has some unique beauty without ever actually seeing, or maybe you can only see the uniqueness in a certain light? That is the mystery I am speaking of, God is there but often we are overlooking it.
The grace of God appeared in a common public inn shed. He was not hidden but shrouded in mystery. How many people came and left their animals in this barn? How many people even noticed? The shepherds in the fields were the first. It is striking that the Holy Family was there in town and the first people to bother coming in to see this amazing thing were the sheep herders out in the fields…out side of town.
The grace appeared yet did we notice the unique beauty and importance of it all. This little child appeared as most children but it brought salvation to all. The next group of people to visit the Family mentioned in scripture is the magi from the east. These by all indications are not Hebrew people, and may actually be priests from other religions. Yet here they come bringing gifts to the king of the Jews. The shepherds then the pagan priest, salvation to all people.
This child grew as any boy. Offering friendship and comforts to those He met, just like many other children. Yet with this just beyond the surface was a mystery that people could only see in passing and then it was gone. The boy and eventually the man trained us to be humane. This boy king, God man taught us how to be human. He taught us how to live a life devoted to loving God and mankind. He came to be human for us. The vicarious humanity of Christ.
How many times do we let time and other distractions get in the way of our relationships? Time flies. It feels as if time just slips faster away from us each day. Have we been loving God, our families, and our neighbors in this time? Have we even introduced ourselves to the people who live just on the other side of us? Jesus spent time talking. He was rarely in a hurry. Even when a small girl as deathly sick he spent time to encourage a poor sick woman. I am not like that. I am constantly rushing to and from, which is probably why I received a speeding ticket for Christmas. Jesus taught his disciple and us to slow down, and to take time to pray. It is when we join with Christ we can truly become human, that lovely social being that was created to live in communities, we need social interaction we need families and friends and if we are left to our own devices we would destroy the spirits of those around us in our self seeking pursuits. But Jesus lived the perfect human life for us, and then he continues to train us to be human as we slo down and draw close to him.
The mystery is that we often forget how precious life is when we rush from one thing to the next. Grace appeared as a baby. Salvation was brought to all but hidden in plain sight. And this unique person both God and Man and Man and God taught us and provided the way for us to actually find who we are.
What an amazing gift. I encourage you all to take some time to slow down and just reflect on this mystery of Christmas. I hope you will see the treasure that will turn your world upside down.