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Titus 2:11-14

A few weeks ago, a couple of my children were trying to teach our dog how to catch food tossed her way. She acted clueless. The tossed pieces of meat, bananas (her favorite!), and cheerios bounced off her ears, nose, and even mouth. Sometimes she’d search for them, but most of the time she just kept staring at the kids who became increasingly frustrated. Finally in a last-ditch effort, one of the kids crouched on the floor pretending to be a dog and the other tossed food their way. As you might imagine, the events produced much laughter and only limited success in actual catches; but amazingly, the dog seemed to catch on. She started trying to catch the tossed food, and eventually achieved an 85% success-rate with Cheerios!

Sometimes I feel like our dog. I just need someone to get down on my level, and show me how to accomplish some task. I learn best through repeated – and patient – modeling and instruction. Maybe you’re the same?

In this Advent Season, we prepare, anticipate and wait for the incarnation of the One who did repeatedly and patiently model and instruct us about how to live as God’s people. He emptied himself, coming down to our level and being born in human likeness. As the incarnated One, he held nothing back in his engagement with people. Throughout the Gospels, we glimpse his humanity as he taught, experienced emotions, faced temptations, and responded to challenges. He shared his wisdom, relied upon his relationship with the Father, taught his Old Testament Scriptural insights, and modeled a faithful prayer life. And eventually, he surrendered his own life.

In reflecting on Jesus’ life, Paul declared to Titus, “He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds” (Tit 2:14). Or as Athanasius famously wrote, “He became what we are that we might become what he is.”

In the simplest of descriptions, Jesus’ incarnation was like my children’s down-on-the-floor attempts to teach our dog how to catch food. And while that comparison might seem a bit crude, its attempt to capture the incarnation highlights an oft-overlooked reality. Jesus’ coming to earth encompassed more than just the means for us “getting into heaven.” Rather, it ushered God’s abundant grace into our world, achieving multiple purposes – including redemption.

The Promised One

Paul’s reminder to Titus that God’s grace redeems us from iniquity echoed Psalm 130:7-8 which declares:

O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love,