Christmas Day 2021: Watching Anew
Advent is over and Christmas is here. We have been waiting with joyful anticipation for his coming as a child to earth. This past season of Advent meant a time of self-examination in the light of God’s Word and recognition that the reason for Jesus’ coming is human sinfulness.
He came to suffer, die, and rise. This news brings about repentance: Sorrow over sin, a change in one’s mind and heart, and trust in the Lord.
Advent doesn’t leave Christians wallowing in sins. The Gospel never does that. Christ came to sacrifice Himself for the sins of the world. He came to ransom the world. He came to redeem fallen creation. Faith clings to these promises of God.
An often forgotten aspect of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, is that He came willingly. Jesus was sent out of love by the heavenly Father, but He didn’t do it resentfully or under protest. He desired to come.
In our Epistle reading for today we find a new expectation. A new reason for us to continue every day to evaluate where we are in our Christian life.
Saint Paul says:
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 instructing us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ Titus 2:11-13
Saint Paul is saying that the grace of God teaches us “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.”
This passage identifies the “blessed hope” as the glorious appearing of Jesus Christ, our great God and Savior.
The word blessed can mean “happy” or “beneficial”; our hope is “blessed” in that Jesus’ return will be an amazing, joyful experience for the believer in Christ. We will be blessed beyond measure when we see Christ. The trials of this life will be over, and we will see that “our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18). The word hope does not communicate uncertainty, as in “I hope that something might occur”; rather, it is the glad assurance that something will take place.
Jesus is our hope, and no one can take that hope away. “Hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Romans 5:5).
The “blessed hope,” then, is the joyful assurance that God will extend His benefits to us and that Jesus Christ will return. We are waiting for this event now. Jesus said He would return (John 14:3), the angels said He would return (Acts 1:11), and the epistles say He will return. Jesus could come back at any time for His Church, His bride.
Should this blessed hope of Christ’s any-time return have an effect on the believer in Jesus Christ? John wrote, “All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as [Jesus] is pure” (1 John 3:3). The believer anticipating Christ’s blessed return will seek to live, in the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, a life of purity. We will all stand before the Lord and give an account of how we lived for Him on earth at the General Judgement, the Great White Judgment (2 Corinthians 5:10).
Jesus’ return should motivate the believer to live godly in an ungodly world.
The word looking in Titus 2:13 is the key for that to happen. To be “looking” means that we live each day in continual anticipation and expectancy, with the conviction that Jesus could come at any time. That hope becomes a transforming reality in this life, resulting in God being glorified through us (1 Corinthians 10:31). The blessed hope brings us joy and cheers us through the trials of this world. It should also cause us to stop and evaluate our thinking, words, and actions.
In the book of Genesis we read of the death of Joseph in the Old Testament....
And he died being a hundred and ten years old. And being embalmed he was laid in a coffin in Egypt. (Genesis 50:25)
The word "coffin" here comes from the Hebrew word 'arown, which has been translated as coffin, chest, and ark, (as in the ark of the covenant).
The President of my College told this story one time to us as students:
"How well do I recall the day my sister came home and announced her engagement. I remember that she got out the old family cedar chest and made a hope chest out of it. It had been just an old storage chest, a combination sofa and cabinet, but now that old chest took on new life. It became a hope chest. Week after week she placed things in the hope chest looking forward to the day of the marriage. Finally, the day before the wedding she opened it and took out what she had placed in it. The old cedar chest was a hope chest and the wedding day had come."
To the Bride of Christ, which we as Catholics are all a part of, a coffin is not a coffin but a "hope chest." That hope began the day the Church was established and the old drab looking casket is now a hope chest.
Day by day we are putting things in that hope chest as we serve the Lord and lay up treasures in Heaven. One day perhaps we shall be buried in what the world calls a coffin, but for those of us who truly are a part of the Bride of Christ it will be a hope chest. Thank God, on the "wedding day," the hope chest will be opened, and what was placed in it will come out.
Looking for the blessed hope and coming of the glory of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ, Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and might cleanse to himself a people acceptable, a pursuer of good works. (Titus 2:13)
Let us be glad and rejoice, and give glory to him; for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath prepared herself. And it is granted to her that she should clothe herself with fine linen, glittering and white. For the fine linen are the justifications of saints. (Revelation 19:7-8)