Sermon to be preached on Christmas Day, December 25th, 2018

 

The Lessons: Isaiah 62:6-12; Psalm 97; Titus 3:4-7; St. Luke 2:1-20

The Text: Titus 3:4-7

The Topic: The love and kindness of God our Savior, by whose coming we are saved by God’s grace

INTRODUCTION

A kindergarten teacher told everyone to draw a picture of what was important to them. In the back of the room Johnny began to labor over his drawing. Everybody else finished and handed in their picture, but he didn’t. He was still drawing. The teacher graciously walked back and put her arm around Johnny’s shoulder and said, “Johnny, what are you drawing?” he didn’t look up; he just kept on working feverishly at his picture. He said, “God.” “But Johnny,” she said gently, “no one knows what God looks like.” He answered, “They will when I’m through.” [1]

(Em Griffin: The Mind Changers)

The Lord Jesus Christ lived on earth, it might be said, so that mankind might more easily see and learn the love of God and what He is like.

It is always instructive to remember the wonderful effects of the Lord Jesus Christ’s birth here on earth. How would the world have been, how could the Church have existed, without his coming?

WHY MAN NEEDED

St. Paul paints such a picture of the lives of Christians before they turned from sin and believed in Christ, when in commanding Titus to remind the Cretans to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to be peaceable, gentle and humble in their relationships with all people, he admits how sinful we all were before coming to Christ (Titus 3:1-3). He comments:

For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.

 

(Titus 3:3, KJV)

THE DAWN OF GOD’S LOVE FOR MAN THROUGH JESUS CHRIST

Then follows the opening verse of our Epistle Lesson, “But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared…” (Titus 3:4, KJV). The kindness of God and His love toward mankind is shown first of all in the birth of the Savior, of whom the angel testified when he brought the good news to the shepherds guarding their flocks by night:

Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

 

(Luke 2:10-11, KJV)

Also, St. John testifies to God’s love for the world in giving his only-begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).

The birth of our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, reveals God’s kindness and his love for man. The Greek word for God’s love of man, is one from which we derive our English word philanthropy. This kindness of God is declared also in Psalm 31:20 (KJV):

Oh how great is thy goodness, which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee; which thou hast wrought for them that trust in thee before the sons of men!

 

God has laid up this kindness and goodness for all who fear and obey him, and has now revealed his kindness in giving his Son to be born on earth, and to die on a cross for the redemption of mankind from sin. But how has God saved us?

St. Paul emphasizes that it was not by righteous deeds that we ourselves had done, by which God saved us, but according to his mercy by the washing of regeneration and the renewal of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5), which is a description of the Sacrament of Holy Baptism. It is not only the outward cleansing by the water of Baptism, but the inward renewal brought about by the Holy Spirit, so that a person is born from above, born of God (John 3:3-8). The Holy Spirit has been poured out abundantly on us believers through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that we might be justified by faith and become heirs in hope of eternal life (Titus 3:6-7). Through our Savior Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit has set us in a right relationship with God the Father, causing us to be born again and adopted as God’s children and heirs of eternal life.

THE DIVINE EXCHANGE

St. Augustine of Hippo described the Incarnation like this:

For there is but one Son of God by nature, who in His compassion became Son of man for our sakes, that we, by nature sons of men, might by grace become through Him sons of God. For He, abiding unchangeable, took upon Him our nature, that thereby He might take us to Himself; and holding fast His own divinity, He became partaker of our infirmity, that we, being changed into some better thing, might, by participating in His righteousness and immortality, lose our own properties of sin and mortality, and preserve whatever good quality He had implanted in our nature, perfected now by sharing in the goodness of His nature. For as by the sin of one man we have fallen into a misery so deplorable, so by the righteousness of one Man, who is also God, shall we come to a blessedness inconceivably exalted. [2]

 

(St. Augustine: De Civitate Dei, Lib. XXI)

The birth of the Lord Jesus Christ, when considered from the perspective of his life and death on earth, has brought about the possibility of salvation for mankind, for all who believe in Him. Through faith in Him, every believer receives the richly outpoured gift of the Holy Spirit and adoption as God’s child by grace. As St. Augustine points out in the above passage, the purpose of this is that we might lose our sinfulness and mortality, and grow in the goodness and righteousness God implanted in our nature by sharing in the goodness of Christ’s nature. At the same time, knowing that we are saved by God’s grace, while we grow in the goodness of Christ’s nature in which we share, we have the hope of inheriting the fullness of eternal life with the Lord Jesus Christ in God’s eternal kingdom.

CONCLUSION

Can you say that your life is better because of turning away from sin, believing in the Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and growing in His goodness? Can you testify to others about the great changes the Lord Jesus Christ has made in your life?



[1] p. 231, Charles R. Swindoll: Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations & Quotes. Nashville,Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1998.

[2] pp. 936-937, Marcus Dods (transl.): The City of God by Saint Augustine. New York: Barnes & Noble, 2006.

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