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A Word to Christmas

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all” (Titus 2:11).

Some of you may have heard the story of the parents who overheard their young child praying the Lord’s Prayer before she went to bed around this time of year. “Forgive us our Christmases,” she prayed, “as we forgive those who Christmas against us” (source unknown). How very cute and poignant all at the same time. Indeed, we Christians are not immune from the temptation to let the hustle and bustle of Christmas get in the way of its true meaning.

The author of the New Testament book of Titus cuts to the chase when it comes to describing the true meaning of Christmas. “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all” (2:11). And, a few verses later, “[Jesus Christ] it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds” (2:14). In Jesus, God’s grace has been made real, accessible to all. This grace that is ours in Jesus frees us to live transformed lives, lives that no longer are centered around ourselves, but rather around our neighbors, all our neighbors. Is not this transforming grace of God made real in Jesus and lived out through our relationships with others the true meaning of Christmas? Are you beginning to see the truth in that little girl’s prayer?

Christmas — the celebration of the grace of God appearing for all in Jesus — holds the promise to transform how we live our lives. And it holds the promise to transform our churches.

How can we sing “calls you one and calls you all to gain the everlasting hall” and still be more consumed with excluding those we judge to be either “too conservative” or “too liberal” rather than sharing the good news that, in Jesus, the grace of God has indeed appeared to all as the Bible teaches? “Forgive us our Christmases as we forgive those who Christmas against us.”

How can we sing “peace on earth and mercy mild” and yet be silent in the face of unjust wars and indiscriminate violence? “Forgive us our Christmases as we forgive those who Christmas against us.”

How can we sing “bless all the dear children in your tender care” and yet ignore the children in our own communities who are suffering from poverty, abuse, and neglect? “Forgive us our Christmases as we forgive those who Christmas against us.”

How can we sing “cast out our sin, and enter in” and still not see all God’s children, regardless of the color of their skin or the language they speak, as having been created in God’s own image? “Forgive us our Christmases as we forgive those who Christmas against us.”

In light of our constant need for God’s forgiveness, even at Christmas, the good news of Christmas and always, is that in Jesus, God’s grace has appeared to all, including us. After all, it is this grace, not our human effort or will, that transforms us. As we celebrate Christmas this year, may God’s grace transform you. May God’s grace transform your congregation. And, may all the world come to see, in and through how we live our lives, the transforming power of God’s grace at work in the world, even today.