Reader: “The coming of Christ . . .”
Response: “opened the door to everyone.”
Scripture: Galatians 3:23-29
Before the way of faith in Christ was available to us, we were placed under guard by the law. We were kept in protective custody, so to speak, until the way of faith was revealed.
Let me put it another way. The law was our guardian until Christ came; it protected us until we could be made right with God through faith. And now that the way of faith has come, we no longer need the law as our guardian.
For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you.
Reader: “The word of the Lord.”
Response: “Thanks be to God.”
I’m not sure we fully grasp these words; we certainly have a different understanding than did the people of Galatia. The Jews knew they were God’s chosen people. They were born his chosen people. The heart aspect of a relationship to God had escaped many of them. Paul went to great lengths to drive home that there was more than ethnicity involved in being God’s children. Jesus challenged the Jewish religious leaders again and again on this very point. Faith was essential. No one could perfectly keep the Law. In reading the last paragraph above you can begin to see how striking it would be to Jews and Greeks and Romans as well realizing how radical this truth was in light of their culture. Not only do you have ethnic unity, you have unity between slave and free, male and female. Have you noticed how hard some factions in our society work to separate people into various groups where the group defines itself by its own system of beliefs and values. There is little interest in any kind of unity among people. Other groups are enemies to be defeated. The beauty of the gospel is that being united by saving faith in Christ and dying to self and being buried with him in baptism brings a oneness that spans ages, cultures, languages, economic states, and all peoples. All “groups” are unified in Christ Jesus. He is the one who shapes everyone’s values, put simply, he is God over all. It is likely that some barn animals, on behalf of all creation, were among the first living creatures to see the One who made all of this possible. The lowly shepherds came. The angels got heaven involved with their singing. Eventually wealthy non-Jewish magi arrived to pay homage. An old Jewish priest held the Savior and an old widow’s prayers were answered as she too saw this infant Unifier of all people. As you walk around today doing what you normally do, look at the people around you, (don’t stare!), and realize they can all be part of Abraham’s heirs through faith in Jesus. Pray for them as you go your way.
Music: “Angels from the Realms of Glory” BYU Idaho Dept. of Music
“Angels from the Realms of Glory” Mormon Tabernacle Choir & Sissel
Our Father in heaven, this world is filled with nations, tribes, ethnic groups, peoples and factions hopelessly fractured and warring with one another. Nations squabble. People groups within nations wage vitriolic verbal wars. Civility barely survives. Lord God of heaven and earth, Creator of all that is seen and unseen, source of redemption, love, and healing, grant that this year’s celebration of the birth of the Savior may in some remarkable way point this troubled world to unity in the person of your perfect Son, our Savior. May the celebration of the nativity by millions of your children serve to draw many others to repent of their ways and their cold hearts and receive forgiveness, discovering the joy of true fellowship with all peoples as brothers and sisters in Christ. And Lord, may we be useful to you in that process. In our Savior’s name we pray. Amen.