First Sunday After Christmas - "This Is Who You Are Now"


Today is the First Sunday After Christmas in the Christmas Season (The Famous 12 Days). 

It’s Still Christmas, in case you didn’t know.  Keep Celebrating!

We’re not quite ready to take all the decorations down… Epiphany is the official cutoff—but you can extend it.   I mean, there are all the bowl games, the college football national championship, the NFL playoffs, heck, even the Super Bowl. 

By then, you'd be almost to Lent, so you could push on through that to Easter, and then you've got to make a decision... "Do I just leave it up until next Christmas?"

Today, we will reflect on what it means to have a new start with a new year and what it takes to leave the old you in the past.  

And we will read a portion of a letter that the Apostle Paul wrote to some folks who felt a bit on the outside of grace just because of their identity. 

New Year, New Resolutions—have you considered what you want to change?

Get in shape. Read more. Spend more time with friends and family. Get control of your finances. Find a new career. The list of what most of us tend to resolve this time of year is pretty long. 

We tend to do a lot of tinkering, don’t we?  We decide to work on many ancillary things that we think will improve our lives, but in the end, most of us just end up doing everything the same way we did the year before. 

Our wishbone is often tougher than our backbone.  

We wish we could fix whatever we think is ailing us, but we aren't willing to do the hard work of addressing the real issue.  

And the real issue has to do with our perception of our worth.  

What would it take for us to really see our worth?  We wrap our identities in all kinds of other things, don't we?  We have illusions of what success looks like, and we pursue that, thinking that it will transform us, but we seldom take a hard look at how we truly view ourselves and our worth. 

This is essentially what the Apostle Paul addresses in his letter to the Galatians, and his insight offers us something that we can hold on to as we seek to become the people we long to be.


Galatians 4:4-7

A bit about the church at Galatia. 

It was part of a region that was under Roman control but was also filled with Gallic Celts.  The name Galatia means "Land of the Gauls."  

Paul is writing to a group of churches in this region, which are made up of both Jews and Gentiles, and he's addressing the conflict that was created by a group of Christians from Jerusalem, who taught them that the only way for them to be Christian was to convert to Judaism.  This obviously caused some divisions within the churches there. 

Paul responds to this teaching by creating one of the New Testament's most masterful works on grace.  It's also believed to be one of Paul's first letters. 

4 But when the set time had fully come... 

Let me stop here a moment.  That first line---"But when the set time had fully come...God sent his Son..."  

Other versions of the Bible put it like this:  "When the fullness of time had come..."  I love that version better, I think.  

But what is the real discussion here?  

The words we are talking about are Greek words used to denote different understandings of time.  There is the word kairos and the word chronos.  Chronos time has to do with the time that moves linearly, the time we worry about losing... the time we think we have to have right.   

Kairos time is the kind of time outside of time as we understand it.  This is God's time.  It's outside history but also within it, shaping it, making it, changing it, transforming it.  It's within history as holy, eternal, beautiful, and true moments.  

The set time when God entered history to become one of us happened in a kairos moment.  Paul picks up on this to make a point about how we are brought into the family of God... that we find ourselves intimately connected with God.

Let's keep going... 

God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.[a] 6 Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba,[b] Father.”

Adoption, sonship, and Paul’s radical message. 

Now, for a lot of us, the gender-specific language that is used here might be a bit troubling.  There were many instances in the New Testament when the writers used non-gender-specific words to describe themselves and others, and the translators chose not to use them.  

One of the most ridiculous instances of the bias with this was the TNIV translation of the Bible, which accurately translated words from the Greek that were not masculine in nature, and then Christians actually boycotted the version. 

Sometimes Christians can be so annoying, am I right?

But in this case, Paul is very specific in using masculine words for a child as it relates to adoption.  Under Roman law, adoption was reserved for sons, and the legal language used reflected that. 

This is radical because Paul does not shy away from this and extends the legal language of adoption to everyone.  

He reiterates this later in the letter when he says, "There is no longer any Jew nor Greek, male or female, free or slave, for all are one in Christ."  

AND there's something else about this part of the passage that is super interesting.  Paul makes a big deal out of Jesus being born "of a woman" and "under the law." 

He firmly grounds Jesus in this world, dispelling any ideas about Jesus being this kind of other-wordly being that had no idea what it was really like to be us.  

Jesus had a social location, a religious context and an ethnic reality.  None of this should be sidelined in the conversation about divinity.  

In fact, Paul states that it's because of this groundedness in humanity that we can be connected to Jesus, the embodiment of the eternal and universal Christ.  We have this inclusion into the family of God because God becomes what God loves. 

Let's read the final line: 

 7 So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.

There is a new transformative reality because of Jesus' birth.  

God didn’t save humanity in spite of humanity. God saved humanity through humanity. 

And because of this, the grace of God through Christ is available to all. 

What do we learn from this?

1. There is equality around the manger—even for those who’ve been denied 
2. We all have a mission to see the world transformed through love. 
3. We can let go of who we thought we were to become who we dream to be
4. Our identity is formed by the One who loves us beyond all measure.  



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