Excerpted from A Season of Hope. An Advent Guide for Lectionary Year B from the North Carolina Council of Churches.
For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.
Every year during the Christmas season, there is at least one film or television program each day that comments on how our consumerism has blinded us to the true meaning of Christmas. Depending on the premise of the movie or TV show, we learn that the “true meaning of Christmas” can be anything from spending time with family to celebrating the birth of Christ. As Christians, we believe that Christmas is a time to celebrate the appearance of God’s grace that brings salvation to all. This grace appeared when God sent Jesus to Earth so that we might have salvation. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8–9), and it is for every single one of us—the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Grace, then, is grace—that is to say, it is sovereign, it is free, it is sure, it is unconditional, and it is everlasting. —Alexander Whyte
So, what does God’s grace do for us? It teaches us that we have to be the just and righteous people God calls us to be, right now, in this time, while leaving our godless and worldly desires behind us. We are to live in the world, not hiding ourselves away. How can we show Christ’s love for us and share it if we separate ourselves from the world?
At the time Paul was writing these words to Titus, Titus was leading a congregation on the island of Crete where the people were known to yield to their worldly desires. The gift of God’s grace quiets and eventually silences such desires. God’s grace instructs us on how to live. We are to live our just and righteous lives out of respect for God’s gift of grace as we await the fulfillment of God’s creation.
This Christmas, when we think of what is truly important, the most valuable gifts we have, the “reason for the season,” let us not forget that God has loved us so much that he gave us an opportunity to be saved and forgiven for our transgressions through Jesus Christ.
And then, what is grace? Grace is love. But grace is not love simply, and purely, and alone. Grace and love are, in their innermost essence, one and the same thing. —Alexander Whyte
Silent night, holy night,
Son of God, love’s pure light
Radiant beams from Thy holy face,
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth,
Jesus, Lord at Thy birth.