PREPARATION: lighting the candle and readying myself to listen.
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”
Do you remember as a child how hard it was to wait for Christmas? It seemed like the big day would never come. It was, well, it was like waiting for Christmas. Today’s scripture recounts a lost humanity’s long wait for Christmas and the coming of Immanuel. An old carol gives voice to the waiting of God’s people: “O come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel.”
It seemed like a long wait, but then it happened! “…the fullness of time had come”! God came to be with us! An ancient listing of Christian martyrs locates the birth of Immanuel as the very pinnacle of Biblical and world history: “When ages beyond number had run their course from the creation of the world…in the twenty-first century since Abraham…around the thousandth year since David was anointed King…in the one hundred and ninety-fourth Olympiad… the year seven hundred and fifty-two since the foundation of the City of Rome; in the forty-second year of the reign of Caesar Octavian Augustus…Jesus Christ, eternal God and Son of the eternal Father desiring to consecrate the world by his most loving presence, was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and when nine months had passed since his conception, was born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem of Judah, and was made man: the nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh.” (Martyrologium Romanum)
We look beyond the lowly Bethlehem manger into the depths of eternity and see how God so loved the world! In the eternal counsels of God, according to His prophets, and “the date set by the Father” (Galatians 4:2), God sent His Son to make us His beloved children.
Today’s scripture is careful to refer to Jesus’ divine nature (“God sent his Son”) and His full human nature (“born of a woman”). He is born of a woman, a virgin without any man enabling, fulfilling God’s first promise of (Genesis 3:15) to save the world by the “offspring of a woman”. The Son of God comes to be God with us, and the representative of Adam’s race, so that He might make us children of God together with Him (John 1:12).
This scripture reveals God’s eternal purpose to send His only begotten Son “so that we might receive adoption as children.” What the eternal Son is by nature is ours through God’s grace. Our being adopted into God’s family means “The Father does not love Jesus with one kind or measure of love, and you and me with a different measure. He loves you in the same way He loves His Son. In His eyes you are cherished and wanted and as acceptable in His presence as His Son. That is what it means to be adopted.” (John Kingsley Alley, The Spirit of Sonship)
As God’s adopted children we live in relationship with God the Father, like Jesus’ relationship with the Father. Thus, the Holy Spirit living within us gives us confident intimacy with the Father. God sent His Son to make us His children, and God “sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’” It would be presumptuous beyond all propriety for us to address God as our Abba Father except that “the Spirit of his Son” prompts us. The Holy Spirit who animated and empowered Jesus in His humanity is the Spirit who animates and empowers us. As God’s adopted children, we have the same Spirit in us as did Jesus.
Jesus liked to talk to God as His “Abba Father” (Mark 14:36), and wants us to have the same boldness before His Father. Remarkably, the apostle Paul and Greek speaking Christians used Jesus’ Aramaic words, “Abba Father”, as it was so precious to use Jesus’ very words. “And so, the Son brings me before his Father, and with their Spirit in me I can boldly cry, ‘Abba,’ for their fellowship I now freely share: the Most High my Father, the Son my great brother, the Spirit no longer Jesus’ Comforter alone but mine.” (Michael Reeves, Delighting in the Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian Faith)
Martin Luther said that if he could rightly understand the first two words of the Lord’s Prayer and boldly pray them as Jesus did, the rest of his Christian life would fall into place. At the date set by the Father, the Son of God came to be Immanuel with us and share with us His own relationship with Abba Father!
CONVERSATION: I talk with God about the thoughts and feelings stirring within.
REST: I take time to be present to Immanuel who is present to me.