by Rev. Dr. Andrew Steinmann
Perhaps the greatest irony of December is that as we celebrate the coming of the Savior to free us from sin and death, Christmas has become one of the most stressful times of the year. Many merchants feel pressure to make sales, knowing that their profit for the year is often dependent on purchases of presents. Others are entertaining friends and family and feel anxiety as they prepare meals and celebrations. Even children might experience the strain and nervousness of being in a Christmas pageant.
However, when the apostle Paul contemplated the appearance of the Savior, he thought in quite different terms. He advised the pastor Titus to teach his flock to focus on different things as they lived in the light of the grace of God that appeared in the manger.
Read Titus 2:110. In what ways was Titus to be an example for his congregation?
Although we no longer have the terrible institution of slavery, how do Paul’s instructions for slaves have application to Christians today?
Read Titus 2:1114. Between Paul’s mention of Jesus’ first coming and His awaited second coming, he speaks of God’s people being trained to live holy lives. This is the traditional Epistle reading for Christmas Eve. Why do you suppose Paul chose this context to emphasize that God’s salvation is for all people?
What is the connection between God’s grace shown in the two appearances of Christ in the world (His birth and His coming again) and the Christian’s life of holiness?
Read Titus 2:15. What do these words say about the responsibility of pastors?
Read Titus 3:47. This passage ties together Jesus’ appearance in human flesh and our receiving God’s grace in Christ as He richly grants us His Holy Spirit. Why do you suppose that Paul, in this context, makes a point of our being saved solely by Christ’s mercy and not by our works?
Instead of making Christmas a time of stress, Paul looks at Christ’s incarnation as an opportunity to reflect on the overwhelming grace of God that appeared that first Christmas Day. That grace not only saves us without any work on our part, but also grants us the assurance of eternal life so that we might be encouraged to live profitable lives of holiness as we await Jesus’ reappearing. May our Christmas celebration be one where we are relieved of the world’s stress because we are assured of the greatest Christmas present of all–eternal life with Christ our Savior.
About the author: The Rev. Dr. Andrew Steinmann is professor of theology and Hebrew at Concordia University Chicago.