December 28, 2014 Text: Galatians 4:4-7
Dear Friends in Christ,
“You can pick your friends but you are stuck with your family.” An appropriate quote don’t you think right after Christmas? We are born into families. We don’t pick our parents or other relatives. We’re stuck in that family. While many happy family moments occur, we also can be hurt in families. Dysfunctional families can damage the members within them in ways that are not pretty.
But let’s think bigger than our immediate families. We are all born into the human race. We are stuck with the human family. It is a dysfunctional family and does things to us that are not pretty. Let’s look at Paul’s list of the works of the flesh: “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealously, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.” (Gal. 5:19-21) We will focus on three from that list.
First – sexuality. God’s gift of sexuality is to be celebrated in the husband/wife relationship. But we misuse the gift by not having sexual relations as husband/wife or by going outside the husband/wife relationship. It can be misused in the family. It is also abused in the human family with the things in the media, prostitution, homosexuality, sex-slave trafficking. “This is the family we are stuck with.”
Second – anger, enmity, and divisions. Anger from hitting four red lights in a row, using words on social media when impatient or not thinking clearly that damage relationships. Then we have school shootings, domestic violence, terrorism, and war. “This is the family we are stuck with.”
Third – drunkenness. One in six Americans has a drinking problem. The rates are even worse among the poor. Seventy percent of children in foster care show the effects of prenatal alcohol exposure.
This is the family we are born into. We are stuck in this family. But, it is not the only family. Jesus opens the door to a different family home.
“ADOPTED INTO GOD’S FAMILY”
In God’s time, he decided when the time had come to fulfill his promises in Genesis 3 and Isaiah 9. Jesus is born of a woman. He is born one of us. In that manger was a human being with arms, legs, fingers, toes, and baby fat! Joseph and Mary could caress his cheek and hold him close. But, he is born into the human family.
Under the law. The law accuses and punishes. The death declared in the Garden of Eden is physical and spiritual. But, Jesus in unique. The law can’t convict him. No punishment is due him. Remember the words of God the Father to His Son at the Transfiguration: “with him I am well pleased.” This shows that Jesus had done nothing wrong.
To redeem us. Jesus, now with grown-up hands and feet is hung on a cross. He takes the punishment for us. He goes through the punishment of separation from his Father, a spiritual death, with “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” It’s the same for his physical death. His heart stops beating; his arms and legs go limp. He is buried. He takes the condemnation of the law we were under onto himself so that we could be adopted into a new family. It is the greatest Christmas present ever.
We are adopted. Remember the quote at the beginning “you can pick your friends.” God has chosen us. He has chosen you and you and you and you. I can say confidently to all of us, “We may be born into the human family, but because of Jesus we are adopted into God’s family.”
It is Christmas every day because the Holy Spirit has been sent into our hearts. He leads us to say, “Abba Father.” Think of what it is like to be in God’s family with the gift of the Holy Spirit present in the life of the church. Think of just one example: how the Lord’s Prayer ties us all together. Pray it with your family. Pray it with strangers at a nursing home. Pray it with tribes in the far reaches of our world.
I know of a Pastor who is adopting two children from overseas. The family has to live for six weeks in that country to complete the adoptions. The congregation where the Pastor has been for one year has been very supportive. They have given him time away and helped with fundraisers. The Pastor and his wife and their two children have flown overseas to adopt the children. The children to be adopted were at an orphanage. One has scoliosis and is in a wheelchair. Within a couple of visits that child was starting to say “papa.” And, where is the adoption taking place? Ukraine. In the midst of the anger and violence are compassion, kindness, and patience. This is what the family of God looks like when adopted by our Abba Father because of the Christmas gift named Jesus, and the Holy Spirit forming his fruit in us brothers and sisters.
We may be born into the human family, but when you are adopted into God’s family, it’s Christmas every day. Amen.