"Christmas Resolution" Sermon / Titus 2:11–14 / Pr. Ted Giese / Monday December 24th 2018: Season of Advent (Christmas Eve) / Mount Olive Lutheran Church
Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Monday December 24th 2018: Season of Advent (Christmas Eve) / Titus 2:11–14 "Christmas Resolution"
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our 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 lawlessness and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession who are zealous for good works.”
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight O Lord. Amen.
Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. Have you ever made a new year’s resolution? Stop smoking, lose some weight; maybe get more exercise, more sleep, less drinking whatever excess or overindulgence it is that nags at you. People usually don’t start talking about resolutions until after Christmas; you know how this goes resolutions are kind of a last minute thing anyaways, and at Christmas there is a little bit of over indulging so you want to think of that later if you do them at all.
St. Paul in his letter to Titus, from our Epistle reading tonight, lays out a kind of resolution that you can embrace whatever is troubling you as a Christian. The whole letter of Titus is really a warning against excess and overindulgence mostly this is super unpopular we live in an overindulgent and excessive world … But Paul isn’t just talking about material things, in Titus it also applies even in the over indulgences and excess of always running after the newest idea or thought, the newest cause or scrap. Yes excess and overindulgence come in many forms. Even if you don’t have much in the way of material things or if you don’t have exactly all the material things you want you can still have an excess in greed and coveting just as you can bitterly overindulge in complaining and outrage when things are not as you like them.
This is why Paul here in his letter to Titus says that the appearing of the grace of God, which is Christ Jesus – whose birthday we are celebrating this Christmas – doesn’t only bring the gift of Salvation it also brings an opportunity for training in the Faith: Training and encouragement to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions. That because of our faith in Jesus we become free as Christians to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, while waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ. Basically how do you resolve to live your life in light of you being a Christian? Will you live it always chasing what the World says is of material value? Will you live it in outrage and irritation? Will you live your life for you and you alone?
The Christian life is really set against all of this. Essentially you as a Christian belong first to Jesus and then to your neighbour, which includes your family and friends, even your enemies and then lastly you belong to you. This of course runs against the grain, the World says that you belong to you first and foremost, and then you put your family first as a sacrifice, and then if there is anything left over at the end of the day, and you have a disposition toward it, whatever is left, then that left over bit can go to God. Whatever you want is justifiable because you decided what is best for you.
But Jesus says that you belong to Him, in the Gospel of John Jesus says, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and whoever comes to Me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will but the will of Him who sent Me. And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that I should lose nothing of all that He has given Me, but raise it up on The Last Day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on The Last Day.” Jesus likewise says, “My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. I and the Father are one.” Are you baptized? Then you are baptized into Christ Jesus – into His life and death and resurrection – that is how this works, you are baptized into Jesus: Jesus is not baptized into you. You are baptised into Jesus’ hands, into the hands of the Father. The miraculous conception and birth of Jesus which we celebrate means that God has entered into our human story and claimed us for His own, you are now His. How then will you resolve to live your life as you celebrate Jesus’ first coming and look forward to Jesus’ second coming?
While teaching about this part of Paul’s letter to Titus the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther reflected that the two vices of unbelief, that is ungodliness, and worldly passions are continually at war against Christians. We [then as Christians] should learn to believe [in Christ Jesus], yet unbelief battles against us daily and therefore daily we must resist it. We must resolve to fight against all that would tempt us away from Jesus. Take heart you are already in the fight, you are here. You heard the call and you are here.
Just as the shepherds that first Christmas who were out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night heard the angel of the Lord when the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” Yes, they heard the call and said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. They could have heard the call and thought … no, we’d better stay right here with the sheep and not go to see this Saviour. They heard the call and they set aside their unbelief and worldly passions and they went to see the Christ Child.
And here you are tonight. Elsewhere St. Paul writes of the resolve of the Christian in the face of the World when in his letter to the Christians in Rome Paul writes, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this World, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
Have you ever made a resolution to be a rebel; a non-conformist? This is what Paul is saying. When the World has gone crazy do not be conformed to this World. Don’t give into every new and crazy thought or idea, every ungodly thing, don’t give into worldly passions instead test everything against what Scripture says and be perfect.
Whoah there preacher! Perfect! Let’s not get carried away. I know how these resolutions work. When I make one I often break it, or even if I do well at it I can’t keep it up forever, I fail at it. And worldly passions, I’ve certainly had my struggles with that. It’s not like I don’t know what I should be doing on most things I just can’t seem to get myself to start, I want to do better but if I have to be perfect I think I might just throw in the towel right now. The thought of it makes me exhausted.
And yet Jesus says, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Where I fail at all of this, where we fail at all of this, where you fail at all of this Jesus succeeds, He has complete and perfect success. Everybody sins. Jesus did not. He resolved to save you from yourself and He did it. His resolution was to come into your life and rescue you from yourself, from the World. He gives this to you as a gift because He knows you cannot pay for it, not with your money or your thoughts, or your words or your deeds. Jesus comes to you because He knows that you cannot resolve to come to Him. This is the nature of the gift of Christmas. Marry and Joseph and those local Bethlehem shepherds looked down upon the baby Jesus’ face and saw that night, that first Christmas the first and last baby to be born that would live a life without sin: the one man who would renounce ungodliness, unbelief and worldly passions and live His life for everyone, even for His enemies; the one who, “gave Himself for us [all] to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession who are zealous for good works.”
As you look toward 2019 as someone who has truly been saved from yourself, saved from the World, someone who belongs to Jesus what do you want your life to look like in the next calendar year? What do you want it to look like for your body? What do you want it to look like for your soul? What sort of Christian life will you lead, in Christ Jesus, over and against the unbelief and ungodliness and Worldly Passions of this present age?
In your baptism Jesus makes you His, makes you Holy, Washes away your sin, and trains you to be zealous for good works. Not Good works for Him, but for your neighbours, your family, even your enemies. The church then is a gymnasium for such training; Scripture likewise is there for your instruction, Jesus even gives you Himself in Holy Communion to provide strength and forgiveness for you along the way. Jesus provides these gifts daily for you to be built up in the Faith. We are here to help as we are able. He has called us to serve you.
And remember while in your Christian life you will regularly fall down, or even get knocked down the goal tender starts every Hockey game looking to get a shut-out, the Pitcher on the mound starts every Baseball games looking to get a no-hitter, every defensive line in Football set out to sake the opposing quarter back at every snap. Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean they don’t strive towards it? They resolve to do it and when they fail they work at it again and again. This is why St. Paul also writes, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved His appearing.” As we celebrate Jesus’ first appearing as a baby boy in Bethlehem that first Christmas, as we look forward to His second coming on The Last Day, always with an eye on today, trusting in Him, knowing that He has done what we cannot, we remember that He has brought Salvation and peace and love and Grace to us, and provided in His cross and passion complete reconciliation between God and Man. Between God and you. Amen.
Let us pray:
Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.
 John 6:37–40
 John 10:29–30
 Luther’s Works, Volume 29, Lectures on Titus Philemon and Hebrews, Concordia Publishing House 1968, Pg. 65.
 Luke 2:8–13, 15–16
 Romans 12:1–2
 Matthew 5:48
 2 Timothy 4:7–8