Friday, December 23, 2016

A, Christmas Eve/Christmas Day Titus 2:11-14 "SOS: Message of the Bible"

“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 Saviour 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.” (Titus 2:11–14, ESV)
Grace mercy and peace to you from our Lord Jesus Christ, who has appeared and will appear again at the time our Father in heaven has designated. Amen.
It’s no easy thing for us to wait. Waiting for Christmas to come, waiting for it to go, perhaps? Waiting for the glory of God to appear once again as it did some two thousand years ago! Waiting for the salvation of God to be finished, fulfilled, taking all our fears and tears away once and for all.
What kind of Christmas have we made for ourselves? One might ask, “What kind of salvation are we really looking for? What are we actually waiting for? Is Jesus really the reason for the season of Christmas 2016?”
One thing for sure, our whole world, our local community is tired. Tired of what we have made Christmas as we wait for it to come. And wait for it to leave as the hangover of Boxing Day sets in amongst the flotsam and jetsam of gifts that continue us in the tiredness of this age, with all the wrapping and rubbish in which we garb ourselves for a bit of self serve salvation.
Like me; you, your family, your friends, the community, and the world is tired. This tiredness is the result of a world sailing further and further away from that which promises to give us true rest. Not just from waiting, but from having waited for, and received, what we’ve wanted.
And so desire has given us its gift and now we’re tired; tired of living with what we truly love. But perhaps to those whom God has appeared this tiredness is not such a bad thing. Our tiredness has made us aware of our sin! We’ve been awakened! The gifts we seek no longer satisfy. We’ve come to realise the worldly self help we’ve sought to enlist is really dragging us under.
It’s right here in our tiredness and in the realisation of failed worldly salvation that the all-encompassing graciousness and faithfulness of our Heavenly Father comes to the fore, and shines, despite our continual faithlessness. For those who have been baptised into Christ Jesus, the message of Christmas, and the whole message of Jesus Christ, is still alive and well, despite our human desires, good and bad!
In amongst the noise and distraction of today, just as in the days the star shone over Bethlehem, God appears. Humbly, quietly, lowly, and graciously God was with humanity; and is still with humanity today! In amongst all the things we want, but tires us to despair, God sends salvation. Even today in our tired world and our tired hearts he sends salvation.
But we are called to hear something very unexpected in the Christmas message, and the whole gospel message. Something subtle and counter cultural which is often over looked or taken for granted!
The unexpected is this: God himself saves.
When we realise we’re castaways, that there’s no more life in us; not even enough energy, or sense, to send a message in a bottle that may never be found, God himself sends the SOS. Waiting till we can wait no longer wait, tired beyond exhaustion, swamped in the self and shipwrecked; we no long have to worry, “Will God get my SOS; will someone get my message in a bottle?”
Human nature thinks it has to save itself, like a castaway putting a message in a bottle, or scratching out an SOS on the beach. But good news for those who are tired and exhausted on brink of despair; God sends the SOS, God is the SOS.
But when God sending us his SOS, our human natures respond in a very strange way! This is you and I still try to live like we’re on a deserted island, keep our wrecked reality hidden and therefore alive, not realising we all struggle with the same sin of separation as every other person God rescues. Yes! For whatever reason human nature seeks to hang onto the sin that keeps us in separation from each other and eventually leads back into separation from God. Even within each of us who know of God’s love revealed in Jesus Christ, there’s the temptation to fight the SOS of God.
Now we add to our tiredness more tiredness by hiding our sin like it’s a treasure buried in the sand. But it’s a vulgar treasure we return to when we think no one’s watch, like a dog that returns to its vomit. We become tired from redigesting the very thing that made us tired in the first place.
And if we’re not exhausted enough already, we make ourselves even more tired with the charade of keeping up appearances, pretending not to be toters and touters of the very treasures that tire.
So that’s a trilogy of tiredness: Tired from sin, tired from trying to keep our sins hidden, and tired from pretending that sin doesn’t exist in our lives.
But let the reality be clear. See what the singer sees...
Walked out this morning
Don't believe what I saw
A hundred billion bottles
Washed up on the shore
Seems I'm not alone at being alone
A hundred billion castaways
Looking for a home
And we continue to send and seek our own SOS, as Sting from the Police once sung...
I'll send an SOS to the world
I'll send an SOS to the world
I hope that someone gets my
I hope that someone gets my
I hope that someone gets my
Message in a bottle
However, the gift of the Immanuel infant, the SOS Christ child, gives us a new home. He’s given to fight the very cause of our tiredness and trouble, he is given training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age. He is given to gather us for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.
Good Works when where tired! So what are these good works? Well the good work that precedes all good works is that of believing. In Jesus ministry he was asked...
“What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” (John 6:28–29, ESV)
In fact when we work at believing, by hearing God’s word, studying it, allowing ourselves to be immersed in it we are allowing the Holy Spirit to bring to fruition all the good works God has prepared for us in advance to do.
Right here the SOS is continued, not by us, but in the same way God the Father sent Jesus to be our SOS. Both God the Father and the risen Jesus send the Holy Spirit to continue the work of salvation. The SOS continues! Not from what we do! But because we allow God access into ourselves; into the castaway!
And so the Holy Spirit brings us to the Father and the Son as a people, his people, gathered and redeemed from all lawlessness, and is actively purifying us as his own eternal possession. Our gift of salvation, God’s SOS, becomes one of life welling up in us to eternal life, even in the weariness of our age and the struggles of our day to day lives.
This leads us to the second work of God, the work of confessing our sin. We now no longer have to weary ourselves keeping up false impressions. Rather we can confess that which tires.
“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” (1 John 1:8–10, ESV)
See how the cycle of God works? Grace leads to grace, God’s good work leads to God’s good work in us, and through us. We are a bunch of castaways in communion, in community, and in fellowship tired from the same sinful natures, tired from the same sin in the world. Tired from the trilogy of sin that drags us under!
We believe we are sinners, we believe we are sinners being saved. It is peculiar to the human nature that God brings us into fellowship with each other, and does not separate us because of our sin. Yet even more than being brought into fellowship with each other, we are brought into fellowship with Jesus Christ, son of Mary, but also Son of God. A fellowship not born out of a baby’s cuteness but born for the fellowship of rescued sinners borne on the cross!
So the third good work is the Holy Spirit’s work of fellowship, allowing us to serve each other. Jesus Christ extends his great work through us to each other, so we might shine Christ to each other; hearing confession, praying and bearing the weakness and tiredness which Jesus bore as well.
The power of our fellowship is not us appearing powerful, but in allowing God to be powerful in his continual conquering of our weakness as a fellowship, and as individual sinners too. Hear the word of God from James 5...
“Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” (James 5:13–16, 19-20, ESV)
So in summary, we all suffer at the hand of our own sin. The noise of it makes us tired. However, Jesus is sent from God the Father to be our SOS, and the Holy Spirit continues the SOS by gathering us together with each other with Jesus Christ.
This SOS is not something we throw out as a message in a bottle with the hope of maybe being rescued. No! This SOS comes as the message of the bible, pointing us to God and what he does and continues to do.
Calling us out of doubt and the tiredness of our lives into the living promises of true salvation through Jesus’ death and resurrection!
The beginning of the story is wonderful and greatBut it's the ending that can save you and that's why we celebrate
It's about the cross it's about my sinIt's about how Jesus came to be born once
So that we could be born again
It's about God's love nailed to a treeIt's about every drop of blood that flowed from
Him when it should have been me
It's about the stone That was rolled away
So that you and I could have real life somedayIt's about the cross (Ball Brothers, It’s about the cross)