Preached: December 26, 2010
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. The Word from God through which the Holy Spirit brings us our Savior 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 that we might receive sonship. Now since you are sons, God has sent out the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba, Father.” So 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 washed clean in the blood of our risen Savior:
“My stomach hurts,” Manuel thought as he shivered under the dark sky. He had not had a regular meal since the earthquake took his parents on January 12. At first scrounging in the rubble then wandering through the tent cities, he ate what he could find. So alone, so helpless. Would cholera, hunger, or neglect take him first?
How much better do you think his life would be if he were adopted -- if an good American family brought him into their home, fed him, clothed him, loved him, cared for him? How would that change his outlook and hope for the future? He'd be an entirely new person, wouldn't he?
You've been adopted, dear friends, by One much greater than a good American family. This adoption brought us out of a far, far worse condition than even a Haitian orphan endures. And as difficult and expensive as an international adoption is, your adoption cost much, much more. For you were redeemed, purchased by the Son of God giving himself as the ransom price for your adoption. That's why he came to this earth, born of a woman, born under law. He came to redeem you, so that whether you are male or female, whether a man, woman, or child, you've been redeemed by the Son to be sons. That's the theme.
And as we imagine little Manuel enjoying a warm meal, a soft bed, and a loving home with his new adoptive family, enjoy the blessings you have as sons of God. Rejoice in your Father's plan. Call out by your Father's Spirit. Anticipate your Father's inheritance. Those are the three parts to ponder as we kneel at the manger of our Redeemer.
“[W]hen 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). The Father had a plan. After Adam and Eve sinned, he began revealing his plan. You heard in Genesis 3 that the Offspring of the woman would crush Satan's head.
But thousands of years passed. God was working his plan, making more detail known, preparing the world for his Son. The Serpent-crusher would come from Abraham's family. Like a star he would rise out of Jacob, from the tribe Judah from the house and lineage of King David. He would be the mighty God, the Prince of peace. He would be born of the virgin in the town of Bethlehem. And how many prophecies of his suffering, death, resurrection, and glory couldn't we list?
God was preparing the world, so that the heathen Roman emperor Caesar Augustus issued a decree at the exact time God wanted, and a newly married couple from Nazareth journeyed to Bethlehem. The prophecies were fulfilled.
Why did God put his plan into action? Why did the Father send his Son? To redeem you, dear friend. Yes, to redeem sinners like and me. Enslaved by our own sin, neither you nor I could free ourselves or any others. Sin blinded our will so that we loved the short-term pleasures of ours sins. And the cost of our redemption was far greater than we could ever pay, even if we had wanted to.
So the Father's plan sent his Son to redeem you and me. At what price? Not with gold or silver, but with the holy, precious blood of Christ, the Lamb of God, the eternal Son of the Father. So he came to be one of us, born of a woman, flesh and blood, born of the virgin. We talked about that last Sunday as we looked at the name Immanuel.
He ransomed us by taking our place under the law. As creatures of God we are by nature under his law. But we have broken it. We were law-breakers, sinners, rebels trying to do things our own way rather than God's way. The law condemns you and me. It condemns us to death and hell, for we have disobeyed. But God's Son was born under the law to redeem those under the law. That's you and me. He willingly had all the sins of the world, including all of yours and mine, counted against him. So when he died, his death counts as your punishment. We talked about that on Christmas Eve as we saw Christ's cross in the Christmas tree, remembering him who is our Life and our Light.
Today, rejoice at how God's plan was put into action as Mary conceived and gave birth to our God and Savior and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn. Now consider how he moved empires and armies, how he sent out his prophets and angels, to bring about this birth, to bring you into his family through his Son. He did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, so that in him we have the full rights of sons, adoption into the Father's family.
He carried out that plan while you and I were still slaves to sin in rebellion against him. How much more won't he work his plan for you, who are now his own dear child through faith in Jesus?
What a blessing you have as God's adopted son through faith in Jesus! He calls you his son, whether you are male or female, for through faith in Jesus you are clothed with Jesus. When God looks at you, he sees his Son, so he calls you his sons. Yes, “[y]ou are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Galatians 3:26, 27 NIV). That too was the Father's plan to bring you into his family through Baptism, clothing you with Jesus.
So rejoice. As you consider what God has already accomplished for you by sending his Son, will he not also graciously give us all things? So no matter what you now struggle with, even if your life appears to be coming apart at the seams, look at God the Son in the manger and know that the Father's plans cannot fail. As you look to the Son, Jesus Christ, you have the Father's care working his plan for you. What a blessing your adoption into his family is!
But life on earth is not easy, is it? Even as a child of the Almighty, adopted into his family through the Son, Jesus Christ, we still struggle with our fears and doubts, our weakness and failures. So the Father gives us the Holy Spirit: “Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts” (Galatians 4:6 NIV).
Through God's Word and Sacraments the Holy Spirit testifies to you and me that we are redeemed by the Son to be sons. He testifies that you are God's child through faith in Jesus. So by the Holy Spirit we call out to God, calling on him as our own dear Father, praying, “Abba,” which is Aramaic for father.
What a wonder! We who were born as slaves to sin, we who hated God because he is just and holy and we were guilty and damned -- we now call him Father! For you have been redeemed by the Son to be sons.
What a blessing of our adoption! When life seems so hard and God's plan so distant, call out, “Abba, Father.” Even if you don't know what to ask for because life is so confusing, nevertheless call out. For the Holy Spirit himself prayers for you with groans that words cannot express. Call out, “Abba, Father,” and know with all certainty the he hears you, for he has given you the Holy Spirit. As your dear Father, he gives you his good and gracious answer. Trust him as you cast all your cares on him. For he is your Father. You have been redeemed by the Son to be sons.
And finally, our Father lifts our eyes to anticipate the inheritance that awaits us. Throughout so much of history only sons, not daughters received the family inheritance. That's another reason the Apostle calls all Christians, male and female, sons. For all of us who believe in Jesus are heirs, heirs of God.
You are no longer a slave to sin and death. You've been redeemed by the Son to be sons -- redeemed, set free, for the price has been paid! But you're not set free to simply fend for yourself. You haven't simply moved up from slave to servant. You're not like a freed slave in the old South, scratching the ground trying to raise enough food so that your children wouldn't starve. No! You've been redeemed by the Son to be sons and therefore heirs. “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), Paul writes.
Anticipate your Father's inheritance kept in heaven for you. For the Son came from his throne in heaven to open wide the gates of paradise. The doors our sins had locked, Jesus opens wide. What an inheritance he has prepared in heaven for you who believe-- an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade.
So when this life seems so hard or even pointless, faithfully follow on, anticipating the inheritance ahead. As you receive Christ's body and blood in the Lord's Supper not only look back to the manger where his body lay and the cross stained with his blood, but look forward to when you will see him with your own eyes and touch him with your own hands. Anticipate the heavenly feast. For you have been redeemed by the Son to be sons, and therefore heirs.
Adoption into a good home is wonderful for an orphan, but how much greater your adoption into the family of God! What blessings you have because he gave you his Son on that first Christmas night! Rejoice in the Father's plan for you. Call out by your Father's Spirit. Anticipate your Father's inheritance. For you are redeemed by the Son to be sons. Amen.
The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.