Sunday, December 27, 2015

Christmas 1

Merry Christmas!

Let me start by saying “thank you”! I am so thankful for my Grace family and for all of your love and support. It provides great strength on tough days to know that there are so many who are praying for me! And I thank you.

As some of you may know, when Father Ed preaches, it’s his practice to bring a “prop” to share. Originally, I’d heard that Father Ed would be celebrating with us today and had decided that I didn’t want to rob you of a prop. I had something in mind. I knew it was in one of the many storage boxes that represent my life right now that are scattered across the four places that I call “home”. I was sure that the box I needed was at my parents’ house. The thing I wanted to share was supposed to be in my baby book. This baby book. However, it turns out that what I was looking for wasn’t where I thought it was.

You see, I have this faded piece of paper. It’s a legal document that no longer exists anywhere in any legal file. That faded piece of paper is the only proof that it ever even existed. On March 31, 1969, when I was 5 years old, the man that I called “dad” made it official and adopted me. That piece of paper is a copy of my original birth certificate…a document that no longer exists anywhere in a world ruled by legal terminology. I am legal heir, a daughter, of Ralph Kraft…period…end of statement…no disputing it. I am his child.

In this morning’s epistle, we hear; “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.” Adoption. Because of Christ’s birth, it became possible that each of us could be redeemed and adopted. That’s fantastic! But what does it mean?

In today’s world, we have this modern idea of adoption. We usually associate it with a family who look outside themselves to add a child to their life. Or, to blend families, like mine, with a desire to show inclusion by a shared name. Yet, in the Apostle Paul’s day, the word for “adoption” (or in some translations: “sonship”) υἱοθεσία (huioqesia) was not common. In fact, it doesn’t show up anywhere in the Old Testament or in any writings of the New Testament other than Paul’s. However, just because Paul is the only one who used it, doesn’t mean that it didn’t exist prior to the 1st century.

In fact, we have examples going all the way back to Genesis where we hear that Abram considered making his slave his heir (Gen 15:3). In those days, it was possible for a slave to become an heir. They’d be required to do things like show proper respect, maintain the household, and take care of physical needs and comforts in an elder’s old age in exchange for an inheritance. As a slave, heirship wasn’t quite the same though as adoption. And that’s Paul’s point. For Paul, the big difference and the whole point of adoption is FULL participation in family relations…it is more than a legal term. It is a term that reflects what binds us. And, what binds us is love & commitment.

My adoption into the Kraft family was about more than just my name. I have been bound to the family in so many ways that outsiders wouldn’t even know that I wasn’t a Kraft “by blood”. In a “nature vs nurture” argument, my Mom will argue “environment” any day of the week because I have so many Kraft traits.

Our “nature” is so very different than Christ’s. He himself is God’s Son, and only he would have the right to call God “Father.” Paul wrote; “And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying ‘Abba! Father!’ So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child, then also an heir, through God.” Because we are adopted sons and daughters, what is true of the Son of God is also extended to us. We are baptized into Christ and have received the Spirit. The Spirit enables each of us to take up his cry of “Abba!” to the Father and share in his sonship. He is the true Son, the firstborn, but as his adopted brothers and sisters by grace, we share in his inheritance as “fellow-heirs”…we share in his love.

We are no longer slaves or prisoners. We are now called children of God because we are his beloved. Isaiah points out that we are to be called by a new name that the LORD gives us…a name that shows the world that we are His own. His beloved. The guarantee of our adoption is not about legal paperwork, but about what is in our hearts: the Spirit sent from the Son who unites us to Himself and each other.

As I stated earlier, adoption means that we are bound through love and commitment. Not only to God but to one another. Some text critics point out that when Paul wrote to the church in Galatia, he wasn’t exactly happy with things he’d heard were happening there. I tend to agree with them, so I hear Paul also saying, “You’re children of God, start acting like it!”

Isaiah wrote that God covered us with the “robes of righteousness”. Righteousness doesn’t mean that we are perfect. Righteousness means that, through Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, we are now in “right relationship” with God. By being in “right relationship” we will want to act accordingly. We won’t be perfect. But the point is that God wants to be in relationship with us…with all of us.

There is an entire world that is living in darkness. There is an entire world that is eligible for adoption. The Gospel of John says, “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave the power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.” The amazing thing is that our new name is available to all. That means God’s family size is limitless!!! As sons and daughters, we have an unlimited number of siblings.

I couldn’t find that faded legal document. And in the grand scheme of things that’s just fine. Because it doesn’t matter what my name was, but what my name IS. And so it is as God’s children. Our past doesn’t matter to Him. Yes, it is part of who we are. Yes, there are inherent traits that we bring to the family from our old names. But they no longer need to define us…because we have a new name….a name we want to share with the world.

As family members, it’s not only about the gifts that we receive but also about the gifts we wish to share. It’s about showing God’s love to a world robed in darkness. In the midst of the world’s darkness, we have the light of Christ in us. WE…HAVE…THE…LIGHT…OF…CHRIST…IN…US…

In our opening hymn we sang “our Lord and brother brought us love for one another”. Through Jesus, we have been adopted. We are not perfect but perfected…redeemed. Because of the love He had for all of us, we have the opportunity (and the responsibility) as siblings to love one another…to show Love to a dark world in need of the Light of Christ…and to share the new name that comes with the Light’s adoption. Together, we get to cry “Abba! Father!” We are more than legal heirs. We are sons and daughters…period…end of statement…no disputing it. We are His children.

Thanks be to God.

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