4But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared,5 he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. 6This Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become his heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
Today’s passage is embedded in a strongly worded letter from Paul to Titus, who at the time was in Crete. Paul was exhorting him to get the Cretans to abandon their rebellious apostasies and return to the Way. These verses hark back to ancient baptismal liturgy which asserts that our salvation is not of our own making, but is freely given us by the gift of the Son. Paul reminds us that in the harshness of our hardscrabble lives, we must look to Christ and rejoice in this gift. Within the thorny context of the letter, these verses provide a gentle, almost pastoral underpinning for purposeful ministry.
For us, in this Advent, we are reminded that the Way is not necessarily easy, and our waiting is often filled with anxiety and uncertainty: our anticipation of great joy tempered by the (seemingly) many trials of the world which confront us every day.
Let us remember: the joy of our Salvation was given to us on that night. It was poured out in love, given freely, asking only that we love in return and share freely with those we encounter on the Path.
Contributed by Jim Gilbreath