The world around us seems to be growing more selfish and corrupt. The values that spring from a general acknowledgment that we are the special creation of a personal God are gathering dust on the shelf of history. Parents are concerned about the influences of social media and the impact of gender issues. Drugs and alcohol, homelessness, violence and rape seem more prevalent.

Furthermore, divisions within governments in the Western world are constantly before us. ‘Are Western democracies becoming ungovernable?’ we might ask. Where do we look for hope?

Consider what Paul the Apostle writes in Titus 2:11: For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all.

Grace is a word found consistently in the New Testament. It speaks of a compassion or mercy shown towards someone who is undeserving. Graceechoes the idea of agape love.

The verb appeared tells us that we wouldn’t know anything about God’s love or grace unless He himself had revealed it. And, Paul tells us, God’s grace is supremely revealed in his personal involvement in our rescue. The birth of Jesus, his life, his death and resurrection reveal God’s grace.

All this is consistent with Dr. Luke’s record of the angel’s announcement to the shepherds, “Behold, I bring you good news of great joy for all people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11).

In Luke 19:10 we read Jesus’ summary of the purpose of his ministry: “For the Son of Man come to seek and to save the lost”. And in Luke 24:26ff the resurrected Jesus says to his disciples: “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”

The Getty Music ‘Compassion Hymn’ expresses God’s grace and mercy: There is an everlasting kindness You lavished on us when the Radiance of heaven came to rescue the lost; You called the sheep without a shepherd to leave their distress for Your streams of forgiveness and the shade of Your rest…

Godly Living. Paul continues in Titus 2:11-12: 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…

Paul wants us to understand that God’s grace is not mere pie in the sky when you die. God’s grace motivates, educates and delights in changing us for the better. Grace is almost personified. It becomes the teacher that trains and nurtures us. Or, put another way, grace teaches us to live as God’s people.

Three words identify the changes that God delights to see in us: sober, upright, godly.

Sober speaks to us personally: we are to live lives of integrity and self-discipline. Upright speaks of our relations with others: we are to live selflessly and honestly, serving others by taking an interest in them, showing compassion and practical care where there is genuine need. Godlyspeaks of our relationship with God: we are to live for God in loyalty and with joy.

Imagine what the world would be like if God’s people everywhere began to live out these qualities. No, it would not be boring. As studies consistently show, society benefits when people respond to God’s grace and live in its light.

In the Age of Enlightenment reason and will were reckoned to be keys to human behaviour. In today’s post- post-modern world feelings have become the driver. But I am sure you have noticed what Paul is saying here: God’s grace becomes the motivating force for our behaviour. When we experience God’s compassion and mercy in our lives we will be drawn to delight in doing the good that God desires. His grace coaxes the qualities of new life in Christ into flower. Yes, it will be a lifetime process, but God’s love will draw us.

The words of the angel speak through the ages: “To you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord”. My prayer is that you and your loved ones will know afresh the joy and the new life in God this Christmas!