For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly.
The grace of God has appeared! It is no abstract idea we ponder once a year. The grace of God has undeniably, irreversibly inserted itself into human history! That’s what we mean when we say Christmas. (Who knew such a stunning Christmas Gospel proclamation could jump out at us from the wee, often forgotten book of Titus?)
The Gospel of John says it this way:
No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.
No has ever seen God? We wouldn’t be wrong to scratch our heads at this statement. What about Adam and Even walking with God in the garden? What about the elders of Israel “beholding” God on Mount Sinai (Exodus 24)? What about Isaiah witnessing God fill the temple and reflecting, “My eyes have seen the Lord!” (Isaiah 6).
Moses and the prophets did a beautiful job of sharing God with us. But it’s just not the same thing as meeting Jesus. Compared to seeing and knowing Jesus, all other ways of knowing God will fall short. It’s in Jesus that God is finally and perfectly revealed to us. That’s what we mean when we say Christmas.
Later on in John’s Gospel, we read:
Philip said to him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father”?
In the season of Advent, we express our longing and anticipation of God’s future action. In the spirit of Advent, the apostle Philip thinks he’s on a grand search to find God. Little does he understand that Christmas has already invaded the story. Jesus tells Philip he can stop looking, because God has shown up. To see Jesus is to see the Father. The search is over. That’s what we mean when we say Christmas.
So as we gather around the manger to see this newborn baby, let’s understand exactly what we’re looking at. We’re looking at the grace of God in human form. We’re looking at the perfect revelation of the God who was not content to sit back and wait for us, but came to us. The fullness of God has come into our midst. We can stop looking. That presence, that fullness, that revelation, that grace – it is with us always, and that will never stop being true. That’s what we mean when we say Christmas.