COLUMN: In search of the elusive Christmas magic

Published 6:18 pm Sunday, December 24, 2023

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Few things in life seem to command the attention, fanfare and effort that the birth of a baby does. Obviously, that’s for good reason. The introduction of any new life into the world is a big thing, although it happens at nearly every minute somewhere on the planet. 

One pastor I know says that “The birth of a baby is God’s vote that the world should go on, despite the messiness of it all.” I think he’s got to be right about that. Afterall, we do attribute the miracle of life, any life, to our God the Creator. 

One of the great things about Christmas is being reminded of a young woman, touched by an angel. This young woman, Mary, was expecting a child of her own. Her first one. 

She was asked to do something beyond imagination. She was carrying a child before marriage, and a child whose father was God. Saying what all of us hope we would say in that situation, Mary responded, “Let it be with me as you have said.” 

That’s the story you or I might be used to from within the Gospels. But now we’re in Titus 2: 11-14. This year, as we anticipate the arrival of Christmas, we’re not in one of the gospel books. 

Titus was a Gentile who had come from the Greek isle of Crete. I’ve been to Crete. There’s not much there. It doesn’t get much focus in the Bible. 

Cretans had the reputation for being hard-edged, almost unteachable people. Titus wouldn’t have been anyone’s ideal sketch for a voice sent to share the gospel with anyone, much less the Cretans. 

But Paul talked about Titus’ loyalty and following of Jesus’ good news. Titus was a logical choice as Paul experienced him to be a man of great faith. 

Paul sent him there to Crete to plant his ministry in that difficult place. Because Titus was the one who was going to have to let them know that Christmas was about more than an event, a mere moment in history. 

It’s about building a manger in our own lives where Christ can be born. Because God just keeps on and keeps on being Emanuel. Every day. 

God keeps on being flesh. God keeps on being with us. God keeps being near us in every way. Emanuel. 

Do you know the word that God gave to Titus? A word I don’t think I’ve ever used in a sermon. He told them to go about and to be “pure.” He said that Jesus had arrived here with us for, among other reasons, the task of helping us to purify ourselves for God’s service. 

This Jesus, whose birth we will celebrate on Christmas Day, represented a life spent with one foot in God and another foot in the messiness of life. Jesus knew what we know. Jesus experienced physical, relational life just as human as you or me. 

Titus instructed his Christ-followers to examine themselves. He said to look at their hands and what they do with them. To look at their feet and where they go. To look at their heads and what they think about. To look at their hearts, and at what was in them. 

Everyone has two choices, really. We can be pure or we can be impure. That’s not a word I’ve used a lot. But it is a powerful little word. It is certain. There is no ambivalence about following Jesus Christ. That’s your message, Paul said to Titus. 

God keeps on being Emanuel. Which lets us keep on being who God made us to be. He said that God, who came in human form, actually wants to be a part of their lives. 

No, actually God wants to be more. God wants to be Lord. That’s what we proclaim if we have submitted ourselves for Salvation in Jesus Christ. We have pledged to turn our lives over to Jesus for shaping and guidance. 

This Christmas, if that is the kind of faith you know, then perhaps the birth of a baby two-thousand years ago has extra meaning for you. If Titus’ words compel you to a life of good deeds now, and not just the hope of Salvation someday, then this Christmas could be a rich one. 

For all of us celebrate Jesus’ entry into our realm. Jesus’ taking on our appearance and our way of life. Showing us how to invest in one another and to join hands as we live in Creation.

Dr. Charles Qualls is senior pastor of Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 757-562-5135.