25 December 2016

In the Fullness of Time

Today is the celebration of God breaking a 400 year silence some 2,000 years ago when the Son of God, born of a young virgin, took on human flesh and came into the world.  The Apostle Paul tells us in Galatians that this event happened "when the fullness of time came." (Gal. 4:4).  In other words, when God chose to begin the completion of salvation history, He did it.

Christmas is a celebration of God's gift to all humanity in Christ.  John refers to Jesus as the Word made flesh.  It is the unprecedented moment in history that gave flesh, bone and blood to the divine, whose mission would be the cross.

As we celebrate and commemorate today, we should not lose sight of the significance of the celebration.  We celebrate because we love Him - both for who He is and what He has done.  We celebrate the undeserved, unmatched, and invaluable gift we have been given.  Galatians 4:1-7 helps us appreciate the birth of the one in whom we believe.

"But when the fullness of time came, God sent forth His son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.  Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying 'Abba! Father!  Therefore, you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God." 

In the verses before these, Paul had described a believer's condition before coming to faith in Jesus.  He described a person whose only sense of relationship to God was through the heaviness of the Law of God, which no person can keep.  Paul uses the analogy of a child to illustrate the position of a person under the Law rather than grace.  A child does not have true freedom and independence.  And in Paul's culture, that made a child little different than a slave.  However, a child would grow up, and the father would set a designated time for the grown-up child to receive freedom, responsibility and benefits.

Similarly, God the Father, when the time was right, sent the Son into the world to make provision for those who would become children of God.  A spiritual completion took place for those who would believe.

Paul mentions that Christ has brought freedom to those once held captive to the Law.  The Law of God simply pointed out our spiritual and moral inadequacy before a holy God.  Jesus, became the Lamb of God that was offered up on our behalf so our sins could be forgiven and we could be set free from the chains of a just and certain condemnation.

Paul goes on to assert that not only have believers been freed from sin, but also adopted into God's family.  Our position has moved from an outsider slave, to a free family member.  This picture of adoption is a beautiful reminder of the amazing grace and love of God.  And our proof of adoption is the presence of the Holy Spirit within us.  We were once estranged from God, but now we have an unbelievable intimacy with God. 

Lastly, Paul points out that if we have been redeemed from sin and brought into the family of God, then we are no longer slaves but sons and daughters of God.  Since this is true then we are also heirs.  This means that we have a future with God.  This means that we are going to receive a glorious inheritance that belongs to God, but one He chooses to give to us.

This is what we celebrate at Christmas.  I was a slave to my own sin with no hope; Jesus has provided freedom and forgiveness.  I was estranged from God; Jesus has positioned me as a child of God.  I was lost with no future; Jesus has promised me that glory awaits because of the riches of the Father. 

All of this is wrapped up in the most precious gift ever given - a Savior who was born.  He is a gift only received by faith.  And that faith is expressed in a commitment to follow.  Do you believe?  Will you follow?  I do believe, and my intention is to continue to follow, even if that journey continues to be filled with challenges and struggles.  Although I will fail and doubt myself at times, I will never doubt the one who loves me with such a great love.  I stand in agreement with the early church who expressed their basic belief in a confession of faith known as The Old Roman Creed, which has come down to us from the mid 4th century.

I believe in God almighty
And in Christ Jesus, his only son, our Lord
Who was born of the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary
Who was crucified under Pontius Pilate and was buried
And the third day rose from the dead
Who ascended into heaven
And sits on the right hand of the Father
Whence he comes to judge the living and the dead
And in the Holy Spirit
The holy church
The remission of sins
The resurrection of the flesh
The life everlasting

Merry Christmas!

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