Today’s reading (I’ve chosen to share today’s reading from the Message translation of the Bible. If you would prefer to read it in the NIV you can do so by clicking here):
In Christ’s family there can be no division into Jew and non-Jew, slave and free, male and female. Among us you are all equal. That is, we are all in a common relationship with Jesus Christ. Also, since you are Christ’s family, then you are Abraham’s famous “descendant,” heirs according to the covenant promises.
Let me show you the implications of this. As long as the heir is a minor, he has no advantage over the slave. Though legally he owns the entire inheritance, he is subject to tutors and administrators until whatever date the father has set for emancipation. That is the way it is with us: When we were minors, we were just like slaves ordered around by simple instructions (the tutors and administrators of this world), with no say in the conduct of our own lives. But when the time arrived that was set by God the Father, God sent his Son, born among us of a woman, born under the conditions of the law so that he might redeem those of us who have been kidnapped by the law. Thus we have been set free to experience our rightful heritage. You can tell for sure that you are now fully adopted as his own children because God sent the Spirit of his Son into our lives crying out, “Papa! Father!” Doesn’t that privilege of intimate conversation with God make it plain that you are not a slave, but a child? And if you are a child, you’re also an heir, with complete access to the inheritance.
– Galatians 3: 28 – 4:7
Welcome to the family
Today’s passage takes me back to the Advent-ure Calendar Day 2 – where I talked about Jesus’ family tree. Remember the list of rogues and oddbods?
Paul is talking about the family of Christ to the Galatians here. Because of God’s decision to send his son Jesus into the world, we are no longer outsiders but insiders. We are given the rights of a son to an inheritance and by God’s spirit we can call God ‘Daddy’.
I was really moved once, when on the bus in Leeds, hearing an Asian child call his father ‘Abba’. It made me realise what an amazing thing it was when Jesus taught us to pray ‘Abba, Father’. Because of what Christ has done for us – putting himself under the law for us (v.4) – we can have an intimate relationship with the Lord as his children.
Image: The Holy Family with a bird by Murillo 1650
Paul’s talking about inheritance and adoption sounds a little strange to our modern ears but the original recipients would have really understood what Paul was saying. For the Jews, inheritance was crucial (just look at all the laws around boundary stones in the Old Testament for example!). For the Romans, adoption was really common and everyone knew the laws around it – it was quite common for adults to adopt other adults – something virtually unknown in our society.
Today’s reading gives us another perspective on what God did in sending us His son Jesus. As John’s Gospel says at the beginning:
Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. – John 1:12-13
I am also reminded of those lovely words we say in the baptismal service to the child or person who’s been baptised:
We welcome you into the fellowship of faith;
we are children of the same heavenly Father;
we welcome you.
At Christmas, we are celebrating the truth of this.
Christ’s coming is God’s great welcome to us into His family.
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