Christmas 1a

Preached: December 30, 2007

Confidently Live Out the New Year as Sons of God
Galatians 4:4-7

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who pours out the Holy Spirit on us through his Word and Sacraments. That word today for us to take to heart and put into practice is Galatians 4

When the fullness of the time had come, God sent out his Son, made from a woman, made under law, to redeem those under law, in order for us to receive sonship. Since you are sons, God sent out the Spirit of his Son into our hearts crying out, “Abba, Father.” So then you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then also an heir of God through Christ. (Galatians 4:4-7)

This is the word of our Lord.

Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints of God:

We were living in Saginaw, Michigan. I was somewhere in grade school, probably the lower grades. We headed out on our family vacation. Each year we would go to northern Wisconsin to my Grandpa's cottage. We kids looked forward to it all year. The traveling wasn't the greatest. We four boys were stuffed in the back seat of a Dodge Dart. But we had our comic books and the like to keep us occupied, and several scolding also helped keep us in line. Then as we were traveling through (I think it was) Escanaba in the upper peninsula, the car spun sideways. As we were going through the intersection, another car had hit us in the back wheel. No one was hurt, just shook up. But after we got out and my dad looked at the damage, he said, “There goes our vacation.” And four young boys started to cry. Even our best laid plans often go awry.

What great good news that God's saving plans do not fail! We just celebrated how he put that plan into action by sending his Son on the mission to save us. And the reading today reminds us of Christmas.

“When the time had fully come, God sent his Son” (Galatians 4:4 NIV). God had so arranged history and the events of this world so that Mary and Joseph set off from Nazareth in Galilee and came to Bethlehem. Outwardly this happened due to the census ordered by a pagan emperor thousands of miles away in Rome, but this was God's plan. Thirty some years later, the Romans would nail Jesus to the cross as he suffered the death that God had foretold, dying as our ransom payment part of God's plan. Then after Jesus' resurrection, his apostles and other disciples would spread the Good News traveling the Roman roads under the peace and protection of the Roman empire. This, too, was part of God's plan. And in how many other ways, well beyond our perception, God had so arranged everything so at the right time, the fullness of time, he sent his Son to save us! His plans do not go awry.

That same God, dear friends, takes care of you. His saving plans for you do not go awry. For in Jesus you are his dear child. He is your heavenly Father who cares of you. What certainty and confidence that gives us to live our day-to-day lives in the year ahead. That's the confidence the Holy Spirit works in you through these words that he led the Apostle Paul to write for us. Take these words to heart. Put them into practice in the year ahead. Confidently live out the new year as sons of God. That's our theme this morning.

How do we do that? Let the Holy Spirit work in you through these words so that you confidently live out this new year as sons of God, 1) by celebrating the ransom that sets you free, 2) by confiding in your Father through the Holy Spirit, and 3) by contemplating your inheritance. That's how to confidently live out this new year as sons of God .

A. Celebrating the ransom that sets you free

1) Why did we need to be ransomed?

“When the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law” (Galatians 4:4, 5 NIV). Jesus is your Ransom, your Redeemer.

That's not too big of deal if you want to claim that you can master your own sin. Then Jesus becomes like the prince who breaks in to rescue the lady in distress only to find out that she has already freed herself. That might be humorous in a movie, but it makes Jesus a rather big fool to come to be born of a virgin and to die on a cross. Why should he suffer so, if we had a chance of freeing ourselves and mastering our sin on our own?

Do you see how serious it is to downplay sin? Trying to excuse or ignore or minimize the deadliness of our sin makes Christmas into a celebration of how foolish Jesus was to come for people who didn't really need him.

But the truth is, no matter how good of a show you or I can put on, we are sinners. Without Jesus living in us, sin is the master; we're never our own master. That's another false claim that we're tempted to make, the claim that I can be my own master. No, either sin is your master or Jesus is. So if you are not following Jesus, sin is leading you by the nose into hell.

For you see, we are under law. We our under the laws requirements to be perfect even as God is perfect. That's why your conscience twitches when you do something you know you shouldn't. That shows you are under the law and breaking the law. As law-breakers, we're also under the laws condemnation, it's death sentence of the unquenchable fires of hell. We need some one to set us free!

That's why Christmas is so important and Jesus no fool. We cannot master our own sin. We cannot escape from the law's death sentence. We need someone to redeem us, to pay the price, the ransom price that sets us free.

2) Why must our ransom be paid by the one who is both God and man?

That's why Jesus came. He, the everlasting Son of God, came as one of us made of a woman. He did not come through a man and a woman, just a woman, born of a virgin. For he is our God. But he became flesh and blood to take our place under the law as one of us, under law to keep it for us, in our place.

And he did what none of us could do. He kept the law perfectly. He met all of its requirements perfectly. That's why only our God can redeem us -- only the God-man, Jesus Christ, our perfect substitute.

And under the law he took our place also when it came to the punishment we had earned. He took our place under the death sentence of God's fierce anger over our sin, suffering our god-forsakenness, enduring our hell on the cross, dying our death. That's the mission God sent his Son on. He is your ransom. He alone redeems you.

3) Why and how do we celebrate this ransom?

Jesus, the God-man, has set you free. But even more than that, he hasn't set you free to fend for yourself, like many of the freed slaves from the old South who became dirt-poor sharecroppers. That would be no reason to celebrate. But Jesus has ransomed you to be sons of God -- no longer slaves to sin but sons of the Almighty. That status of sonship belongs to you through faith in Jesus, whether your male or female, man or woman, boy or girl. For just as the Son of God, Jesus Christ, became one of us to take our place under the law so in exchange he has give you a place in God's family similar to his place. “When the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.” (Galatians 4:4, 5 NIV).

So celebrate Jesus this new year. He is your Ransom. He has set you free to be a son of God. You are no longer a slave to sin. Why serve it? Rather celebrate that you have a place in God's family because of Jesus. Celebrate by say, “No!” to sin to show that it is no longer your master. Celebrate by showing kindness and goodness to others out of love for Jesus, since he is your Lord who ransomed you. Celebrate by coming to your Father's house to hear the Good News every week. What you do on a Sunday morning shows to others what you consider must important. Let them know that it is most important for you to celebrate Jesus, because he has ransomed you to be his own and given you the full rights of sons. Confidently live out this new year as sons of God who celebrate the ransom that sets you free.

B) Confiding in your Father through the Holy Spirit

1) What is one right you have as a son of God which strengthens you to face the new year with confidence?

But this new year won't always feel like a celebration for us. We won't always feel confident in living for Jesus. Our weakness and sins, the troubles and setbacks of life dim our joy and weaken our confidence. But whether in your highest moments of joy or in your deepest depths of doubt or anywhere in between, you have someone ready to listen, someone to confide in. You have your heavenly Father.

What a blessing that Jesus has ransomed you to be a son of God! For as a son of God, you have the ear of the almighty God always ready to listen.

But what can you or I say in the presence of such a mighty One? Don't fret about that. For he sends you the Holy Spirit through his Word and Sacraments to give you the words to say and the confidence to pray. The Holy Spirit teaches us to call the almighty God, Father. That's what the word abba means, father not Tyrant, or Dictator, or Overlord, but Father.

A young son eagerly waits for his daddy to get home to show him the picture he colored. A young son runs to his daddy when he trips and knocks his head hard. A young son wants to sit with his daddy and cuddle with him, just because he is his daddy. Through faith in Jesus you are a son of God, for Jesus took your place under the law to set you free and gave you the full rights of a son. Go to your Father in prayer, run to him, be with him. Confide in him. Confidently confide in him as you live out this new year, for you are his son through faith in Jesus. “Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father’” (Galatians 4:6 NIV).

C. Contemplating your inheritance

1)How does contemplating our inheritance in Jesus give us confidence for the year ahead?

And finally live confidently this next year as you contemplate your inheritance. “So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir” (Galatians 4:7 NIV). An heir of what? An heir of the heavenly home and the joy of being in the glorious presence of our Savior-God.

But how can something yet to come, like an inheritance, give you confidence right now to live out the next year? Because no one can take this inheritance away from you. This inheritance will not perish, spoil or fade, for it is kept in heaven for you who believe. No thief can break in. No rust or decay destroy it. Not even the devil and all the forces of hell can tear it away from you. So don't loose this inheritance by turning away from Jesus and letting your faith die. Rather contemplate this inheritance. Think about it.

When we keep our minds contemplating the inheritance that Jesus purchased for us, then we won't be tempted by the earthly treasures that want to crowd him out of our hearts. Rather we will seek first Jesus and his kingdom and his righteousness that come through his Word and Sacraments.

When we keep our minds contemplating the inheritance that Jesus purchased for us, then we can look past the hurts of this life. Even when others are cruel to us, we can forgive and show kindness even to them. For we know and believe that no matter how great the hurt is or how cruel others are, the inheritance that Jesus purchased for us far out weighs them all. Yes, like a rich king who magnanimously pardons his enemies, you and I can forgive. For you are a rich king through faith in Jesus Christ, a rich king with an inheritance greater than anything this world can offer. You see what confidence you can have as you live out this new year as a son of God who contemplates his inheritance?

So contemplate your inheritance by keeping your heart and mind focused on Jesus. Use the God-given ways to keep your heart and mind fixed on Jesus. Use his Word and Sacraments. Use his Word in worship, in Bible class, in your devotional life to celebrate that ransom by hearing the Word. Use his Sacraments. Remember your Baptism when you were reborn as a child of God, so that you can confide in him as your heavenly Father. Receive the Lord's Supper contemplating the inheritance that Jesus' body and blood purchased for you. Through these God gives you confidence to live out the new year as sons of God.

Pastor Gregg Bitter

St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
859 5th Street
Hancock, MN 56244
(320) 392-5313