“A Fresh Start”
Can you believe another Christmas has come and gone, and that we’re now on the Eve of another new year? I cant. I mean, just the other day we were ringing in 2017. And, I don’t know about you, but I’ve always had mixed feelings about the week after Christmas.
In some ways it’s awesome! As a kid, I got to stay at home with my brother and sister for a whole week and play with our new toys Santa brought us. I loved this particular week during my college years because I got to sleep. At home. In my own warm bed, and not on a twin size, college issued, bunk bed. As an adult, I think I would go so far as to say that my favorite day of the year is December 26. When we hang out with family all-day and just enjoy each other’s presence, and the hustle and bustle of Christmas is over.
But I think that is also where this particular week each year brings me a little down. The hustle and bustle of Christmas is over. There aren’t any Christmas specials on TV.
The radio stations stop playing Christmas music at 12am on December 26 because we are already so over Christmas carols. The anticipation of knowing that Santa is coming, lighting your candle at the Christmas Eve service, and being in the presence of family and friends on one of the most special days ever is over…and won’t come around for another 364 days. We prepare all Advent long for Christ’s arrival. We light candles, we sing carols, we come to church and fellowship with close family and friends, we attend Christmas parties, and we literally count down the days to Christ’s arrival. And then He arrives!!!…and then it’s over.
What is there for us now?
Paul has some inspiring words for us today in regard to our Christmas blues. Our text comes from Galatians 4:4-7. This scripture is only a snippet of Paul’s larger argument to the Galatians. See, Paul was an Apostle who was called to share the Good News of Christ among Gentile nations, like Galatia, which is located in modern day Turkey. After Paul shared the news of Christ with the people of Galatia, and established churches there, he left and made his way to other surrounding places. Then, at some point, Paul got a letter from the Galatians, to which he responded with this letter (found within our Bibles), which he wrote sometime between 48-54 AD.
It seems that after Paul left, some other teachers (or “opponents”) were teaching “another Gospel” to the Galatians. These “opponents” taught the Galatians that, in order to come followers of Christ, they would first need to observe Jewish laws and practices, such as becoming circumcised and following the laws of the Torah, in order to be part of God’s chosen people.
This whole thing seems to have made Paul pretty angry at both the Galatians and the teachers who came in and taught this “different Gospel.” Paul writes to tell the Galatians that faith in Christ was all one needed to inherit the promises of God. This promise was originally established in the covenant with Abraham years and years before – the covenant that Abraham and his offspring would be as numerous as the stars and all nations will be blessed (from Genesis 22).
Throughout this letter to the Galatians, Paul makes quite a few references to Jesus death and resurrection, which is a pillar point in the saving power of Jesus Christ for both Jews and Gentiles of Paul’s day. But in the text we have for today, Paul specifically mentions Christ’s birth and why his birth is especially significant.
Reading of the Holy Scriptures: Galatians 4:4-7. The Word of God for the People of God – Amen.
Before Christ rose at Easter, before Christ died on the Cross, before Christ healed the sick and injured, Christ was born.
Paul tells the Galatians that “when the fullness of time had come” – when the perfect time, situation, and season arrived, God sent his Son – His fully Divine Son. This fully divine Son was born of a woman – thus making Him also fully human. God’s Son was born under the law – as a child born into the Jewish faith. All this so that He may redeem those under the law so that everyone, Jews and Gentiles, would be adopted as his beloved children.
From the moment Jesus was born, the covenant opened up to include everyone. All people, whether Jew or Gentile, who had faith in Christ, was now a child of God. A child who can shout “Abba! Father!” in their own native tongue and know that God, their Father, sees, knows, and loves them as His own children.
From the moment Jesus was born, the rules changed. For Paul, having faith in Christ was enough for the Gentiles to be children of God. Gentiles did not have to abide by the laws of the Torah because Jesus removed those distinctions, offering grace and love to everyone. Now, it is important to know that Paul did not think that Jesus made the laws of the Torah obsolete. It is more likely that he believed that if Jews wanted to continue following the laws of the Torah and have faith in Jesus, they could. Likewise, if Gentiles wanted to live like Gentiles, not following the rules of the Torah, but have faith in Jesus, they could!
From the moment Jesus was born, all of creation received a fresh start. Everyone could have faith in Christ. And whoever believed in Him would be filled with the Holy Spirit; be wrapped into that covenant made with Abraham so many years ago, and know that, from that moment on, they were beloved Children of God.
So Friends, I ask you… Why do we have the Christmas blues!? We live in a New Day, which began with Jesus’ arrival, with Christmas! Although our Christmas celebrations are over, and we start to get back into the swing of our normal routine, and we reluctantly look at all of our decorations knowing they’ll have to be put back in storage soon – we can live with not only the hope, but the assurance that we are beloved children of God, and that we all have inherited the promises of the covenant which God made with Abraham years and year ago.
We live in a post-Christmas world, where we can celebrate the fresh start that God gave us by sending His Son to live with us so that we all may be redeemed and brought closer to God!
What if we rang in the New Year holding on to the fact that because we believe in Christ we can face the mysteries and challenges of the New year because we are children of God? What if we rang in the New Year holding on to Christmas? I know I’d be pushing it if I told you we should celebrate Christmas every day and sing Christmas carols all year long, so I won’t. But there is so much joy, wonder, excitement, and love to celebrate knowing that we are children of God who are so deeply love by our Creator who knows each of us by name.
Friends, it is my hope and prayer that, even as we pack away all of our Christmas decorations we keep the Spirit of Christmas in our hearts all year long. As we ring in 2018, (as we say goodbye to one year and hello to a new one) may we use this brand new year – this fresh start – to offer all of our thanks and praise to God for sending his Son to us, for us, on Christmas. And May we live with the assurance that we are all beloved children of God. And may we live into our identities as children of God and share God’s Good News and love in all that we say and do.