One of the first things I see in the morning when I wake up is one of my favorite things. It hangs on the wall in my husband’s and my bedroom. It’s a print of a painting that a good friend painted and I bought it before we left the metro Atlanta area. The print has a simple phrase: “I am a child of God”. I love that reminder that we are children of God. I believe that I know quite a lot about being a child of God. For one, I am a child of God. Some days that’s an easier concept to grasp than others. Yet the reality is, I am a child of God and so are you.
The second reason I believe I know a lot about being a child of God is because, being a pastor for almost 20 years, I’ve walked with many children of God – of all ages. I’ve taught many children of God and I’ve worshipped with many children of God. I’ve walked with these children of God during the hardest times of their lives, through the ordinary times of their lives, I’ve held their hands during the scary times of their lives, given them hugs during down times and good times, I’ve been blessed to dance with them during the celebrations of their lives and the list could go on and on. I’m sure if you think about it you too have shared many of those things you’ve done with other children of God.
The Epistle lesson for today talks about THE Son of God – Jesus. Yet it also references you, me and other believers as Children of God. Christmas Eve was just one week ago today and I suspect for some it seems like an eternity ago and others just yesterday. But the calendar says just one week ago we celebrated the birth of the New Born King – who would come to be called, Emmanuel, Prince of Peace, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, God with us.
Verse 4 of the Galatians text talks about this stating: “But when the fulfillment of the time came, God sent his Son, born through a woman, and born under the law.” First we see God claiming Jesus as his child, his son. We all know that to be the truth, we recited it in creeds, we sing of it in songs, we read about it in scripture and we proclaim it in all that we do. Yet that verse concludes with the statement, “under the Law”. What does that mean? Some might read that and be suspicious, but that doesn’t need to be the case.
Rather “under the law” meant that Jesus was born under the Laws of the Jewish people and faith. He was born in a time and place when the Jewish laws were held in high esteem. He came not to abolish the laws but to fulfill them. To say there are other laws, rules, ways to live, that are just as important or even more important than the laws that the Jewish people were focused on, such as circumcision, gentiles being unclean, some of the dietary laws, and some of the rabbinic codes. Jesus was born to fulfill the prophecies, to instruct us to live into the New Commandment that he gave to us: “You should love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind. And like it you should Love your Neighbour as yourself.”
The Galatian’s passage goes on to say that Jesus’ birth “This was done (God sending his son) so he could redeem those under the law so we could be adopted.” (verse 5). You see if Jesus had not been born there is no way that we would have been granted access to God in the Jewish eyes (unless you are Jewish). But Jesus came to abolish that law, that concept, that belief. For in Jesus’ eyes and God’s eyes all who proclaim Jesus as Lord are children of an ever-loving God. Both Jews and Gentiles are adopted by God and can cry out “Abba Father”.
It’s like what Paul says in Galatians 3 – “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” Therefore clearly we are all children of God.
The Galatians passage for today says that we are adopted by God — that’s how we become God’s sons and daughters. I’m not going to claim to know everything but I feel rather confident in saying that I do know a lot about adoption. My husband and I adopted our son and I tell you with all my heart, that he is loved beyond measure, he is treated, cared for, and loved just as much as if I had given birth to him. We worry about him, we encourage him, and sometimes we even have to take privileges away.
Likewise, God loves each of us, whether we are Jew or Gentile, male or female, no matter our ethnicity or what our job is – God loves us all the same. God longs to encourage us and guide us. God joyfully proclaims that we are God’s children.
Isn’t that wonderful to know? I can’t think of anyone I would rather be claimed by (even if our parents are the greatest) than God. I’m eternally grateful that I’m adopted by the God who offers me through his son life both abundantly and eternally.
Speaking to the church of Galatians Paul reminds them and ultimately us that we are no longer slaves, because we are sons and daughters, rather we are heirs of God. What an amazing gift. Yet sometimes we might need to be reminded of what that means – what does it mean to be heirs of the grace of God?
In the Moravian Church, which is the church where I grew up and have served for 19 years, we have a tradition that comes around every year at the time when an old year turns into a new one. We share watchwords, which are verses of Scripture designed to remind us who we are as heirs of the grace of God. Each person in worship receives their own personal watchword. These are scriptures taken from the Moravian Daily Texts, a daily devotion guide used around the world. I thought it would be good to share this tradition with you this year. So as I pass around this basket, please feel free to take a slip of paper. The verse of Scripture printed on it will be your watchword for 2018. I hope that you will keep hold of them throughout the year and use them to lift your hearts.
Paul’s words should lift our hearts today, as we remember that manger scene, we read just a week ago. Not only is God still present in the world, but that great act of Love made known in Jesus, claims us still – how amazing and awesome is that? Whether life is easy or difficult, whether we are broken or whole, somewhere in between or flip flopping between the two, does not change the fact that we are children of heirs of the Promise. The challenge that each of us face this week, this coming New Year and the years to come is what will you do with the reality that you are claimed by an ever-loving, almighty gracious God as children? What will you do with the grace you have been given? What will you do with the heirs of grace you’ve been given because you have been adopted by an amazing God?
Preached at St. Michael Lutheran, High Point, NC, by The Rev. Kelly Moore, Dec. 31, 2017