Christmas Is the Fullness of Time (Galatians 4)
- Liturgical Date: First Sunday after Christmas – December 28, 2014
- Order of Service: Matins
- Hymns: LSB #370, 389, 781, 380
St. Paul begins our text this morning with the phrase "when the fullness of time had come." Basically, when God decided it was time, it happened. Quite straightforward and to the point. St. Paul puts the Christmas story in its historical and eternal perspective. God knew that Adam and Eve would fall. God knew that they would need a Savior. So God sent them one, but not before it was the proper time. A time of His own choosing. At the time, "when the fullness of time had come," God sent Jesus to be the Savior of the world.
Imagine you are a Jew living in Judea around 5 B.C. It's been many, many years since there was stability in the Promised Land. In fact, the only stability is that the king is unstable. You remember the promises that were drilled into your head as a youngster: God is sending a Prophet like unto Moses. With the deplorable condition of things around you, you'd really like it if God would hurry up and send this Prophet. Everything is going extremely bad for those who believe in God and are awaiting His promised one. Wait! Am I talking about 5 B.C. or 2014 A.D.? Eh, same difference. Nothing seems to have changed. But something has changed. Something wonderful has changed. The promised Prophet has come! "God sent forth His Son." He sent Him to fulfill the promises that had been made throughout all history. This Jesus, the angel tells Joseph, "will save His people from their sins." He did this so that you can have that promised salvation. God wants you to be one of His people. So He sent Jesus.
St. Paul tells us two very important things about Jesus' birth. First, he was "born of woman." Just like you and I, Jesus had a mother. He had flesh and blood just like us so that He could understand everything that happens to us.
He knows our sorrows, even from the days before Christmas. The long, wearying walk from Nazareth to Bethlehem. The scratchy straw of the manger on His newborn flesh. The moving around the town of Bethlehem. Finally having to move to Egypt after the Magi leave. From the age of about two years, people had sought His life.
He understands grief. The rest of the infant boys in Bethlehem were slaughtered because of Him. They weren't killed for any sin they committed. They were killed because of their age and their gender. Rachel's weeping for her children rang in Jesus' infant ears as the Holy Family fled to protect Him. Jesus understands the sorrow that accompanies senseless violence. He understands the brokenness of this world.
After all, Jesus was born "under the Law." Jesus was born under our circumstances. Yet without sin. Being God, He was "above the Law" because He gave the Law to Moses. Jesus condescended to become "under the Law" so that you and I may be counted as righteous by His obedience to the Law. Without Jesus' submission and perfect obedience to the Law, you'd be forced to "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." You'd be responsible for everything you've done in this life. Either good or bad. With Jesus' submission and perfect obedience, you're able to breathe because the heavy burden of the Law has been lifted. You get to enjoy the benefits of being a child of God because you believe that God sent His Son into the world to redeem you.
Now we come to the most important word of these verses: "redeem". "Redeem" does not have a very nice origin. It comes from the slave market. "Redeem" means to buy back a slave, making him free by payment of a ransom. That's exactly what happened to you. You were a slave to sin. You were held in chains by the power of your sinful nature. The devil had you in his power and you were merely putty in his hands to mold as he saw fit. Then came Jesus. You weren't looking for a release. You didn't even think you were a slave. You thought you were in control. That's the beauty of Satan's control. You thought you were in control while he pulled on your puppet strings. But Jesus came into the world to free you from these circumstances. With His death, He has paid your ransom. With His resurrection, He has overcome the power of death. He redeemed you— bought you back— from your slavery. Jesus was born so that He could die and rise again. Now that He has paid your ransom, He has made you a child of God.
This ransom even comes to the Holy Innocents. Their martyrdom was senseless from this world's viewpoint. But from the heavenly perspective, it was a fragrant offering to God. While God wants no one to die, these young martyrs died as a testimony to Jesus' birth in the fullness of time. Their time had been fulfilled. But God promises great blessings to rise from the parents' sorrow. They are treasured sons of God just as you are His treasured sons and daughters.
Jesus came into the flesh "so that we might receive adoption as sons." In this adoption, you are truly called children of God. St. Paul finishes our text with the great benefits of being children of God: "God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts." You can call God "Father." You are "an heir through God." With the Holy Spirit— "the Spirit of His Son"— dwelling in your heart, you have a constant testimony that you are God's children. The Holy Spirit also moves you to pray to God, especially through the prayer that Jesus Himself has given you: "Our Father, who art in Heaven." Through the testimony of the Holy Spirit through the Word of God, you understand that you are an heir of God because Jesus has promised that His departure will ensure His return: "And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also."
God wants you to be with Him. He wants you to be His children. So, how do you respond to this? “Be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us." God has loved you so much that He sent His Son into the world. You should love your neighbors so much that you give them His Son— the perfect Christmas present for those who still mired and burdened by their sin. You have this treasure—your faith. Don't keep it bottled up inside of you. Share it with those around you so that you can imitate God's love for the world throughout your world. This is the blessing that you have from your Father in Heaven who "when the fullness of time had come ... sent for His Son" for you. Amen.