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Christmass 1 2017

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Galatians 4:4–7 ESV
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent 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 an heir through God.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
A blessed Seventh Day of Christmas to you. We celebrated the Nativity of our Lord on the First Day of Christmass, that Word becoming flesh. On the Second Day of Christmass the Church recalls the stoning of Stephen, the first Christian Martyr to be killed for preaching Jesus, reminding us that the world hated the Church from the beginning; on the Third Day of Christmas, we recalled the slaying of the Holy Innocents by a jealous King Herod who wanted to eliminate the competition to his throne. On the Fourth Day of Christmass the Church remembers St. John the Theologian, the author of the Gospel of John, the Epistles of John and the Revelation of Jesus according to John, banished to the remote Island of Patmos for his proclamation of Jesus as Messiah.
And yet, in the midst of these three days where the Church remembers mayhem and martyrdom, the Peace that Christ came to bring prevails. But you can see it is not worldly peace. It is the kind of peace that allows one to go to his grave or suffer at the hands of haters and still know all is right with the Father because of the Son. There is simply a depth there that the world cannot comprehend or understand, even as it rejected the Word Made Flesh for it.
Today we are focusing our attention on our Epistle, written by Saint Paul. And it is a glorious Epistle that tells us everything we need to know about Christmas:
Galatians 4:4–6 ESV
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”

But when the fullness of time had come...

As we heard through Advent, Christmass is the fulfillment of a promise made all the way back in the Garden of Eden that God would send a “seed of the woman” who would conquer the curse that Adam and Eve’s disobedience wrought. Certainly God could have caused that child to be born to Eve and Adam right away— and, according to Martin Luther, she thinks that her firstborn— Cain— is this one of whom God spoke. But she was wrong, and he wasn’t! As a matter of fact, he was the first murderer!
Nonetheless, God’s promise continued through the ages. We see Messiah’s history first unfold in Israel’s history. The prophets begin to paint a picture of who this one would be: That He would be born of a virgin, that He would be born in Bethlehem, that He would suffer for His people, that He would judge the nations.
The time that He was to appear was set by the Father, just as the Last Day is set by the Father. No one knew when Messiah would come until the Father revealed it. And by the way, the Greek here is a form of “Chronos” which means literal time, like on your watch, not “Chairos” which one would expect, meaning a period or “opportune time for action.” God had a literal day and time in mind here.
The Father reveals the fullness of time to Mary by an angel. And then to shepherds abiding in the fields. And then to righteous and devout Simeon, the prophet in the Temple of whom the Gospel speaks today. God promised him that he would not die until he saw the Lord’s Messiah. The Fullness of Time came as Simeon picked up Baby Jesus, “blessed God” and then said, “OK, Lord, I have seen your promised Word made Flesh. I can die now.” Words of the Nunc Dimittis. Do you realize that each time you sing this canticle after communion, you are saying to the Lord, “OK, Lord, I have beheld your promised Word made Flesh in Your body and blood for the forgiveness of my sins, I am ready to die now?” That is exactly what you are saying. It is an acknowledgment that the Time has fully come.

God sent forth His Son

should be ringing in your ears right now. God sends Jesus to earth from heaven. This, of course, is really the meaning of Christmas, not a simple birth of a baby. God becomes flesh in the Incarnation. He takes on our flesh so that we might be redeemed.
And notice here that it is His Son. Not by adoption. He is God’s actual son. Jesus was not a man that became a god. He didn’t become God at His Baptism as some wrongly teach. He is “God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made...” Christianity is the only religion that teaches that God becomes a man. And He must do this to save us.
He had to be a man so that He could undo Adam’s curse through His Holy Life. And He had to be God so that His Righteousness can be our righteousness through faith.

Born of a Woman

“For God has sent His son, who could have come a King, but chose a mother’s womb, instead, eternal life to bring.”
Jesus is born of the Virgin Mary. She was most likely between the ages of 12 and 17. It was the Jewish custom for girls to marry as soon as they were physically ready to have a child.
She was betrothed to Joseph. A betrothal was as binding as a marriage. It was pre-arranged between Joseph’s parents and Mary’s parents. It would become a marriage not by spoken vows, like today, but when it was consummated physically. In God’s eyes sex is what causes you to be married, not the other way around. That has profound theological implications today in a world that sees no problem in treating it casually or in perverted ways. Another day, another sermon.
The Angel Gabriel appears to her, tells her that she will be the Mother of Christ, that it would be a miraculous conception, and Mary, without hesitation responds to God’s call, “May it be to me as you have said.”
This causes a problem. Mary is pregnant, and Joseph, betrothed to her, knows that they have been chaste. There is only one way that this could have happened. In his mind, Mary was not faithful to him. So he seeks to divorce her. This tells us something about betrothal: Legally, to break a betrothal, there would have to be a divorce. Furthermore, if someone betrothed was unfaithful, the Jewish punishment was to stone this person to death. That’s what Mary was facing. But the angel appears to Joseph and tells him that she was not unfaithful, but that the Child in her was of the Holy Spirit, that His Name would be “Jesus”, and He would save His people from their sins.

Born Under the Law

There was no free pass for Jesus when He became Incarnate. He wasn’t some kind of entitled individual who would be above the law. He didn’t have a PBA card to get out of a ticket. He couldn’t call in a favor from someone to get Him off the hook like so many try to do today. The Law fully and totally applied to Jesus, and He lived under that Law perfectly. If the law forbad something, He didn’t do it. If the Law commanded something, He did it. Not just outwardly, like the Pharisees, but inwardly. His thoughts were never sinful, self-centered, lustful or covetous. The Law of God was in place, that Law that shows that no one can be saved by it for no one can keep it, was kept perfectly for you and me by Jesus.

To redeem those who were under the Law.

That’s you and me. We are under the Law. And that law of God weighs heavy upon us. We have broken every command in thought, word and deed. When the Law is broken, there must be punishment. Satan is quick to remind the Father of His law and also to hold that Law against us, demanding our death and our souls. And he is right. The law doesn’t budge and inch. There is no mercy in God’s law, despite the fact that some hymns, particularly at Christmas Time, seem to infer that there is. Law knows no mercy. You did this, you suffer the consequences this way. That’s the Law. And there is no more to it.
But Jesus, born under the Law for us, keeps that Law for us. In Baptism, He washes His holy righteousness upon us. His perfect keeping of the Law under which He was born is given to us; and in His Baptism, all of our sin, all of our breaking of the Law is washed upon Him. He takes it to the cross, where He dies along with it. Your sin is punished, alright. But, as Isaiah reminds us,
“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His stripes we are healed. “

That we might receive adoption as sons.

This is the heart of Christmas. This is what Jesus was born to do: To make us God’s own. To restore us to the Father after sin had cut us off and marked us as hell-bound. To wash our sin away in Baptism. To open heaven to all who believe. To re-connect our prayers with the Father. To empower us to give offerings that are acceptable to God. To empower us to forgive all who sin against us and make it so in heaven as on earth. To give us hope that He is coming back to claim His own, and His own is us. To make things right again. To enter our suffering now, using it to draw us closer to Himself and to lift our heads because we know that we are destined for heaven where there is no suffering, pain, night or death.
Without Christmas, none of this would be possible. But the Gospel of today is, “For unto you, this Day in the City of Bethlehem, a Savior has been born to you, who is Christ the Lord.” Or, in the words of Paul, “In the Fullness of Time God sent forth His son, born under the Law to redeem those under the Law that we might receive adoption as sons.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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