“Why Christmas Matters”


December 24, 2016

Christmas Eve

 

Text:  Titus 2:11-14

 

    The story of the birth of Jesus is one we know well.  We read it every Christmas.  We act it out in pageants.  We sing songs about it.  

    But I find we don’t always focus a great deal on why Jesus coming to our world matters.  So for tonight’s message I’d like to focus most of our attention on the Scripture from Paul’s letter to Titus.  Listen again to what Paul wrote in our passage from that letter:

    “The grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all people.  It educates us so that we can live sensible, ethical, and godly lives right now by rejecting ungodly lives and the desires of this world.  At the same time we wait for the blessed hope and the glorious appearance of our great God and savior Jesus Christ.  He gave himself for us in order to rescue us from every kind of lawless behavior, and cleanse a special people for himself who are eager to do good actions.”  

Salvation is far more than being assured of a place in heaven for eternity when we die.  Salvation is also about being in right relationship with God and neighbor in this life.  That is why Jesus taught us to live “sensible, ethical, and godly lives” in this world.  In the coming of Jesus, God demonstrated his great love for all humankind by becoming one of us.  Indeed, he became one of the least of us.  He was not born in a palace or a mansion to people with wealth, privilege, and power.  He was born in a barn to poor people who had to work hard to make a living.  Jesus lived a human life in which he hung out with outcasts and sinners.  He died a human death of the worst sort, being unjustly executed on a cross alongside the most heinous criminals.  Then he rose victorious over the powers of sin and death.  In Christ our sins are forgiven and our lives are made right with God.  Because God has done this for us, we are invited and encouraged to live for God in all that we do.  We are called on to love our neighbors, both near and far away, and even our enemies, as we love ourselves.  We are expected to treat other people the way we would like them to treat us, as Jesus taught us.  He also taught us to do good to the “least of these” in our world.  And we are to forgive those who do wrong to us because God forgives us.  

    Eternal life with God does not begin when we die.  Eternal life begins when we accept Jesus as the Lord and Leader of our lives, accept the gift of God’s forgiveness, and commit ourselves to living God’s way in the world.  Whatever comes after death is merely the icing on the cake, the completion of the work God has already done in and through our lives while we live on this earth.

God’s work on this earth in Jesus Christ is not yet completed.  Our world is still full of broken, hurting people.  People are violated, abused, and mistreated.  Too many people still choose to hate those who are perceived to be “different.”  People still often resort to violence to settle their differences.  People still suffer needlessly and senselessly.   

Jesus came to make us new people.  He came not only to save us from the eternal consequences of our sins, but to teach us how God wants us to live in the world.   Because we belong to Jesus, we have the responsibility to represent Jesus in the world by living in his way--to love all people, including our enemies; to work and pray for well-being of all people, even those who do us wrong; and to do good to everyone, including those who hate us.  This responsibility has been given to us until Jesus comes again in glory.

Jesus came to make us new people.  May this purpose be fulfilled in your life and in mine as we celebrate his coming as the Babe of Bethlehem, knowing that he also lived as the Man of Nazareth, and that now he reigns in glory as King of Kings and Lord of Lords forevermore.  Let us worship and obey him as the Ruler and Leader of our lives as we make our way in this world, trusting in his promise that we shall be with him always.  Amen.

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