Advent: Day 22 – Sunday, December 24, 2023

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
Titus 3:4–7

A beautiful Methodist rite exhorts the congregation, ”Remember your baptism and be grateful.” How often do we thank God for the gift of our baptism? Though, perhaps we might be asking first, why should we be grateful for our baptism?

Throughout the Scriptures, God creates and heals his world through water and the Holy Spirit. In creation, the Spirit hovers over the face of the deep waters. In the flood, Noah sends out a dove (symbolic of the Holy Spirit in the renewed world) who returns when he finds an olive tree. In the Exodus, the Spirit goes ahead in a pillar of cloud leading the Israelites through the Red Sea to freedom from slavery. At Pentecost, Peter says, “Repent and be baptized and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” God uses water and the Spirit, something earthly and something divine, to create his world and to recreate it.

In our reading today, Paul tells Titus that it was not our own efforts that saved us, but God’s mercy. “He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.” We are washed from our sins, given a new birth from God, and made new again by the Holy Spirit. So, there is much to be grateful for! God has made us clean and forgiven our debts; he has made us part of his own family so that we are properly his children; and he has given us a new source of life and power so we can live as God lives. And if we live the life of the Spirit given to us in baptism, we can be assured of inheriting eternal life.

Dr. Jared Ortiz is the Lavern ’39 and Betty DePree ’41 Van Kley Professor of Religion at Hope College.

Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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