We heard last Sunday in the Introit, Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say, rejoice! God wills that all are joyful, especially today. Consider the last stanza to the hymn, “If God Himself Be for Me”: “My heart with joy is springing; I am no longer sad. My soul is filled with singing; Your sunshine makes me glad. The sun that cheers my spirit Is Jesus Christ, my King; The heaven I shall inherit Makes me rejoice and sing.”
When and how long will the joy of Christmas remain with us? Christmas joy remains with us when we consider Saint Paul’s words to Saint Titus in today’s Epistle. Paul begins by saying when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us…according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit. Paul says the Spirit is given not in response to any work of man, but for the sake of the Gospel. The Gospel brings Jesus, and Jesus brings the Holy Spirit – His Spirit. Everything that we do in Christ proclaims Christ. Our joy lasts longer than today. Our life in Christ makes all we do holy, from cleaning our house to changing diapers to saying hello to our neighbors.
Death and final judgment cannot terrify you in Christ. Jesus Christ, Who orders the Day of Judgment, stands there with all His glory, greatness, majesty, and might. He stands there for your sake. He alone controls that day. He alone will verify that your trust in Him was not in vain by declaring that He gave Himself for your sins. No one will accuse you. The Judge has destroyed the power of the accuser. Satan cannot stop Christ’s birth as much as he cannot stop Christ’s death and resurrection.
Today you have strong security for eternal life. Christ certainly will not waver, even though you will waver. That is why you stay close to Jesus in days of joy and in days of sorrow. Doing the right thing on a bad day won’t get you extra jewels in your heavenly crown. Today’s joy that God has come in the flesh to save you runs through the entire church year.
Advent prepares us for the coming of the King. Christmas delivers the Savior in the flesh. Epiphany manifests the fact that Jesus Christ is both human and divine. Lent prepares us for the death and resurrection of Jesus by showing us both our sin and our need for a Savior. Easter is our everlasting Alleluia as Christ is triumphant over death and hell. Ascension is His promise that He is ever with us and soon will return in the flesh. While we wait for that return, we watch in hope as Jesus continues His ministry among us in Word, water, wine, and bread.
Jesus saves us through the working of the Holy Spirit in our baptism. It may sound odd to consider baptism on the Nativity of our Lord. Yet His nativity among us is more than a baby and a stall. His nativity among us, how Jesus natives Himself to His people, happens when water, Word, and mandate come together in Holy Baptism. You are washed in regeneration and renewing waters through the Holy Spirit Whom God has poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ, our Savior. When you are washed you are made holy. You are made holy by being incorporated into His justification so that being justified by His grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
Paul starts the next verse after today’s Epistle by saying the saying is trustworthy. As Luther’s Small Catechism taught us, “This is most certainly true.” The goodness and loving kindness of God has come to save us. Truth stamps out the lie. Jesus’ birth according to the flesh is the fulfillment of the sure and certain Word that now becomes flesh. Your salvation has drawn near. You are Christ’s heir. You receive what He brings: forgiveness, eternal life, and salvation of your soul. This is our Christmas joy that lasts beyond today.
“Joy, O joy, beyond all gladness, Christ has done away with sadness! Hence, all sorrow and repining, for the Sun of Grace is shining!” Merry Christmas today, tomorrow, this summer, and all of your life!