The letter to Titus really matters. If you haven't spent time with the third question about baptism in the Small Catechism recently, this might encourage you to do so. Yes, even for Christmas.
Verses 4-7 are cited in an editorial footnote in the Formual of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article 2: Free Will (SD 2.20 n.63) letting us know that one version of the SD cites not only Pslam 90, but also Hosea 6:5, Matthew 8:1-13, and Titus 3:4-7. Not a huge deal, but the section is about Luther's understanding of humanity's free will--namely, quite a bit "in temporal and external affairs" and none at all "in spiritual and divine matters" (SD 2.20). Always a helpful reminder.
Verses 5-8 are directly quoted in the Small Catechism, Baptism 3 (SC Baptism 3), emphasizing the role and necessity of the Holy Spirit in baptism through the Word of God. Also a reason to add verse 8 to the pericope.
Verse 5 is cited in several places:
- In an editor's footnote of the Small Catechism Baptismal Booklet (SC Booklet.13) as part of the prayer of invocation before the baptism.
- In the Large Catechism, Baptism (LC 4.27) recognizing the power of God's name bringing life and salvation, and therefore regeneration.
- Again in the Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article 2: Free Will (SD 2.26), but this time in a long string of biblical citations. This one noting the efficacy of the Spirit bringing renewal and rebirth.
- Later in the Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article 3: Righteousness (SD 3.19) to explain the difference between regeneration (regeneratio) and justification (iustificatio). This verse in Titus is noted to show that even Paul made a distinction between these two words.
- And once more further on in the Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article 11: Election (SD 11.89) again noting God's promise of the Spirit in baptism giving sinners "purification and renewal" through the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Verse 14 is connected to a quote in the Small Catechism Table Blessing of Psalm 145 as cited in an editor's footnote (SC n. 107) connecting "delight" and "pleasure." This is a helpful reminder that God's pleasure is creation's delight.
Hmm. That seems familiar...
First, props for having a Christmas Dawn service!
Second, this Titus reading is so important for a Lutheran confessional understanding of baptism, Christian life, and the work of the Holy Spirit, how might you start talking about the Holy Spirit in this Christmas sermon?
This is most certainly true!