Dec. 24, 2011
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.
Within church circles, there is something called “the lectionary.” This is a three-year plan of what passages of scripture can be used in worship for every Sunday and special worship days of the year. Each worship day lists four Biblical passages of scripture. This passage from Titus is listed for Dec. 24. I’m guessing this isn’t the most popular scripture passage that will be used in worship services today. Luke 2:1-20, which tells the story of Mary and Joseph going toBethlehemand the birth of Jesus, is the scripture I have used at Christmas Eve worship services ever since I’ve been serving as a pastor.
Look closely at this passage again. (OK – maybe look at it for the first time if you skipped over it and went right to the words I write. I understand. Quite often I do this myself!) The very last words speak about “doing what is good.” Most people want to do what is good. I hear this sentence all the time, especially when meeting with a family that has just lost a loved one, “He/She was such a good person.” Good is good. But should being good be all that we strive for?
Personally, I hope that if someone describes me and the way I’ve lived my life, I pray that he/she will think of a more descriptive word than “good.” Besides, is good really all that good?
When someone asks you, “How are you doing?” what is your normal response? I have this sliding scale. If I’m having a not so good day, I say, “OK.” “Fine” is one step above “OK,” and “Good,” is one step above “Fine.” If I’m really having a good (there it is again!) day, then I might say, “Great.” I have this running dialogue with an older gentleman fromMidlandnamed Irv. After worship on Sunday, he asks me how I’m doing. He has sort-of figured out my sliding scale and sometimes calls me on it. If my response is, “OK,” he’ll say, “Are you really OK?”
Quite honestly, I’m not sure God would desire for us to live simply “good” lives. I’m thinking that God has a deep desire for us to be on the “great” end of the spectrum. That’s why God offers salvation for all people through God’s Son, Jesus Christ. When we see what God has done for us, then we see how important it is to say “no” to worldly passions and choose to follow Jesus’ example of how to live our lives. It means choosing to do what is good, as described by Titus in this passage.
I’ve just finished spending 45 minutes with a couple that I have never met before. The man called yesterday looking for assistance. As a pastor, I get these kinds of requests more frequently than other folks. They are fromHouston,TX. His son and the son’s half-brother were living with their mother inEau Clairewith her boyfriend. The mother and boyfriend were arrested for dealing drugs. The boys are in foster care. The man who called me is trying to get the boys but needs employment to do so. He shared that yesterday he got a job. They needed $100 to cover the rest of their rent and wanted to know if I could help out.
As you read these words, what is your first reaction? Would you help this couple? What is the good thing to do? “It depends,” is what I’m guessing many would say.
I’ve heard many stories, some which I could classify as true; some which I think are embellished to pull at my heart strings. Rick and I have discussed this many times. There are people out there who are trying to take advantage of others. And seriously, there are folks who really need help. How do we tell the difference? One way Rick and I keep perspective of this is to recognize that we are called to do our part, to live upright and godly lives today. If someone is taking advantage of us, then that’s for them to ultimately make peace with and not us. We error on the side of helping more often than not, recognizing that maybe some receivers are trying to take advantage of us. Our hearts just need to be in the place where we are giving as a response to God’s love for us. We leave the rest up to God and not drive ourselves crazy trying to decide whether we did the right thing or not.
Honestly, do you want God to look at you and ponder whether or not you deserve the gift of salvation and have God respond, “It depends?” Thank goodness God doesn’t have a sliding scale. Every day for God is great. Now we choose whether or not to make everyday we can great for the little part of God’s kingdom we’ve been entrusted with.
My prayer for you this day is that we can all see the greatness which God desires for us. Otherwise, why would have God set God’s very own Son into the world? Please pause life for a few moments and see how this really is more important than any worldly pleasures. This is the true greatness of Christmas Eve.
Let us pray: The splendor of the King, clothed in majesty. Let all the earth rejoice, all the earth rejoice. He wraps Himself in light, and darkness tries to hide. And trembles at His voice, and trembles at His voice. How great is our God! Sing with me: How great is our God! And all will see how great, how great is our God. Amen.