When we think of Christmas accounts in the New Testament where
do we normally turn? In reality we don’t
get much Christmas in the Epistles; but, there is Philippians 2 where Jesus is “born
in the image of men". But there isn’t much else. And aside from Luke 2, there
isn’t much in the Gospels either. Half a chapter in Matthew 1 and that’s about
it. But, in a Galatians passage, Paul gives us the whole “reason for the season”
in just four, short verses. And guess what? It’s got your name on it! It is for
you – all for you. The mystery and majesty of the incarnation of the Son of God
wrapped up into a single package.
'But when the
fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born
under the law, to redeem those who were
under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are
sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba,
Father!” Therefore you are no longer a
slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.' Galatians
Paul writes about “The fullness of time” The idea behind the
phrase the fullness of time is “when the time was right.”. Jesus came at just
the right time in God’s redemptive plan, when the world was perfectly prepared
for God’s work.
The birth of Jesus, however, is unique among all other
births in human history. Jesus was sent forth from God. Before his birth, Jesus
was. The Apostle John celebrates this amazing truth in his Gospel:
'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with
God, and the Word was God.' (John 1:1)
Paul makes this very same connection, ‘God sent forth his
Son’. The birth of Christ was unique and miraculous because who Jesus was and
is. He is not merely a child of God (as you and I are children of God). He is
the Son of God and his arrival on Earth was not simply happenstance. God sent
Him forth. This glorious truth lies at the heart of the Christmas account and
the good news of the Gospel. God intervenes decisively in human history by
sending forth His Son. At Christmas we remember and celebrate the sending of
the Son of God and, as we gaze upon the Baby lying in the manager, we behold
the Son of God Who was with God in the beginning now sent out to us.
Paul tells us that Jesus was “born of a woman” in order to
highlight the fact that although Jesus was the divine Son of God He was also
fully human. Jesus had a completely human body. He got hungry. He became
thirsty. He was tired and slept like we do. Whatever the song “Away in a
Manger” may say, He even cried. Jesus was “born of a woman” named Mary.
But Paul says something else about Jesus here. He was not
only born of a woman, but He was also “born under the law.” What does being
“born under the law” mean? God had given the law to the people of Israel, and
the law told them how they were supposed to live, how they should interact with
one another, and even how they should worship. But no one could perfectly keep
the law, and to break the law was to sin against God.
In order to make sense of the Christmas story, we have to
make sense of Easter, too. Therefore, we see Jesus not just as a baby in a
manger but as a man placed on a cross, and dying a death He did not deserve. What
Jesus is doing on the cross is “redeeming those who were under the law.” He’s
paying the penalty for our law-breaking. He’s stepping in our place for us. If
we were to sum up this connection between Christmas and Easter, we would say
that Jesus made a way for every one of us to have a real, personal relationship
with God. Paul describes this as 'adoption'.
We have peace and joy because we are now sons and daughters
of God Who can call out to Him, “Abba, Father!” No longer slaves, but sons, and
if sons, then heirs of Heaven.
All that’s left for us to do is the same thing we do when
receiving a Christmas present. Smile and say thank you.
This season, may the Christmas story remind us afresh of the
perfect timing and plan of God.
Elder, Stan Davala