The First Sunday after Christmas
December 29, 2019
God’s Perfect Plan!
But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir. (NIV1984)
Dear fellow worshipers of the Christ-Child,
Plans. Have you ever made plans that simply did not work out? Perhaps you had your family vacation all planned out, but then you or someone in your family became ill and you had to change your plans. Perhaps you enrolled in college with the plan of taking up a specific career, but once you started taking the required classes you knew that you would have to change your career plans. Perhaps you had your retirement nest-egg invested in a certain company or in a certain group of funds with the plan of retiring at a certain age, but then the company goes bankrupt or the stock market takes a nose dive and you have no choice but to change your plans.
The plans that you and I make, my friends, all too often end up getting changed, don’t they? Sometimes our plans change because we change. Sometimes our plans change because of things that are completely out of our control change.
As you and I continue our celebration of Christmas we turn our attention to a portion of Scripture that I have long found fascinating. Here in Galatians chapter four the apostle Paul reveals to us that Christmas did not just “happen.” No, rather, here in Galatians chapter four the apostle Paul reminds us that Christmas was always a part of: God’s Perfect Plan! As we study our text for today I would like to highlight three “steps” in God’s Perfect Plan!
Whenever we are making plans to do something one of the first steps that we need to take is to prepare. You can’t just wake up one morning and decide that instead of going to work or school you are going to take a trip across the country. You need to prepare for that trip. In a far greater way the apostle Paul reveals to us that the first step in God’s Perfect Plan was indeed to prepare. That preparation is found in the opening words of our text, “But when the time had fully come….” Why was Jesus born approximately 2,000 years ago? Why not much earlier? Why not now? The answer to that question is because God had a plan! And to guarantee that His plan would “succeed” God saw to it that everything that was necessary for the Christ to be born was perfectly in place exactly where and when it needed to be. In short, God guided and directed the history of this world so that the world was prepared for Christmas!
But let’s think this through a little bit, shall we. Sometimes in a moment of weakness or short-sightedness we might wonder why Jesus wasn’t born in more “modern” times— perhaps even in our time when worldwide communication is so easy and so accessible! We have access to the world-wide-web! We can tweet and text and snap chat with ease! Personally, I can’t even imagine what some people today would post on Facebook if John the Baptist called them to repent of their sins and change their sinful lifestyle. (See Matthew 3) Personally, I can’t even imagine what the Pharisees and the experts in the law might have tweeted when Jesus judged them for their false doctrine and their hypocrisy. (See Matthew 23) Personally, I can’t even begin to imagine a whole crowd of people with their cell phones out when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. (See John 11) No, my friends, the God of heaven knew exactly what needed to take place for Paul to write, “When the fullness of time had come….”
“When the fullness of time had come….” The Greek word that is translated here in our text as “fullness” can also be translated as “completeness.” Perhaps an easy way to picture this is to think of an elaborate jigsaw puzzle that you have been working on for quite a long time. Each piece of the puzzle has to fit together exactly right. As more and more pieces of the puzzle come together, the picture becomes more and more clear. But, you cannot say that the picture is “done” or “finished” or “complete” until that last piece is carefully put into place.
How does that picture tie in with God’s Perfect Plan? How does that picture tie in with Christmas? We honestly don’t have enough time to answer that question completely, my friends, so let me share with you some highlights. One of the ways in which God “prepared” the world for Christmas was to allow the Roman Empire to gain control of the Mediterranean world. As the Roman Empire marched east they brought with them a number of things which prepared the world for Christmas. For example, there was the Pax Romana— the Peace of Rome. Whether it was on land or on the sea Rome imposed law and order on her empire. And to help enforce that peace Rome built roads. Those roads enabled the powerful Roman legions to travel to any area of unrest anywhere in the empire and quickly restore peace. Because of the Pax Romana people could travel all over the empire in relative peace and safety— this included Mary, Joseph and the Christ-Child, it included Jesus and His disciples and it included Paul and the other Christian missionaries.
Another major part of God’s preparation for Christmas centers on something that at first might seem odd and strange. One might think that the “official” language of the Roman Empire would be Latin. Not so! Rome was so enamored with the Greek culture that they made Greek the official language of the Roman Empire. This meant that wherever God’s missionaries traveled throughout the empire they could communicate the message of the Gospel by simply speaking Greek. This meant that when letters were written to various congregations and to various individuals those letters could be shared with the Christian church at large because they were written in a language that people could read and understand— Greek! That was a part of God’s Perfect Plan to prepare the world for Christmas!
Step two of any good plan centers on who is going to carry that plan to completion. For God’s Perfect Plan there was only one Person who could do this. Paul writes, “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman….” The only Person who could carry out God’s Perfect Plan was the Son of God Himself! The true Son of God had to become the true Son of Man because God’s Perfect Plan centered on one thing, my friends. It centered on Paul’s words, “…born of a woman, born under Law, to redeem those under law.” Since God requires holiness and perfection of anyone and everyone who wants to live in His heavenly Home and since we are not capable of living a holy and perfect life in thought and word and deed— God’s Perfect Plan was to send His very own Son into this world to live a perfect life for us! Since God also requires that each and every sin be paid for in full and since you and I are incapable of paying the debt of even one of our sins much less all of our sins (See Psalm 49:7-9) God’s Perfect Plan was to send His very own Son into this world so that He could pay the debt of our sin for us! (Pointing to the cross) Through Jesus’ perfect life and through Jesus’ innocent suffering and death on the cross God’s Perfect Plan was brought to completion. “It is finished,” Jesus said (John 19:30). We are redeemed. But there is even more!
Step one of God’s Perfect Plan was to put all the pieces in place so that this world was prepared for Christmas. Step two of God’s Perfect Plan was to send His very own Son into this world to bring His plan to completion. What is step three? Step three is found in Paul’s words, “…that we might receive the full rights of sons.” Step three of God’s Perfect Plan was to take everything Jesus accomplished and give it to you— as a gift, absolutely free of charge!
When we were brought to faith in Jesus Christ as our personal Savior from sin— through the power of God the Holy Spirit working in Word and Sacrament— we were adopted to be God’s own dearly beloved children. That is the goal of God’s Perfect Plan! As the adopted children of God we now have “rights,” my friends. Paul emphasizes two of those “rights” here in our text.
First, Paul says, “Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out ‘Abba, Father.’” The word “Abba” was oftentimes the very first word that a very young child learned for their father. Today the word “Abba” would be akin to the word “Daddy.” “Abba” is a word that expresses a close, warm and friendly relationship between a child and their father. The word “Abba” is found only three times in the New Testament Scriptures: here in Galatians 4:6; in Romans 8:15; and in Mark 14:36 where Jesus says in the Garden of Gethsemane, “’Abba,’ Father, everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
Think about what this means for you, my friends. The goal of God’s Perfect Plan was to give you the “right” to call the Almighty Creator of the universe, “’Abba,’ Father.” The goal of God’s Perfect Plan was to give you the “right” to call upon the God of heaven using the very same name that Jesus Himself used to call upon His Father— “’Abba, Father.” The goal of God’s Perfect Plan was to give you the “right” to address the eternal God with the close, friendly and endearing name, “Daddy.” What an awesome “right”! What an amazing privilege! At any time and for any reason you can approach the throne of the living God Himself and say, “’Abba,’ Father…” and He will say, “Yes, my dear child, I am listening.”
The second “right” that Paul highlights here in our text is found in the closing verse, “So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.” Once again it is so difficult for us to wrap our limited minds around what Paul is teaching us here. Since we are by nature “slaves” of sin— whether it is the sin of idolatry or the sin of greed or the sin of jealousy or the sin of pride or any other of a whole host of sins, since by nature our “automatic default setting” was to rebel against the Almighty, the goal of God’s Perfect Plan was to free you from your “slavery” to sin and adopt you to be His own dear child so that you would have the “right of inheritance.” And what will you inherit as an adopted child of God? You will inherit the Kingdom of Heaven itself! The streets of gold and the gates of pearl, glory and perfection beyond imagination— they are yours! This is what you will inherit from your heavenly Father! Why? Because you are so good? Because you deserve it? Not at all! This is what you will inherit from your heavenly Father because that’s the goal of God’s Perfect Plan for you!
Plans. When it comes to the plans that you and I make, my friends, there is always the possibility that our plans will need to be changed. There are too many things we simply can’t control. There are too many factors that we fail to foresee. Thankfully, our eternity does not depend on what we do or the plans that we make. Thankfully, our eternity is based solely on God’s Perfect Plan. Since God Himself made all the preparations necessary for this plan and since God Himself sent His very own Son to perfectly carry out this plan we now have the awesome undeserved privilege of enjoying the goal of God’s perfect Plan— the “right” to call God, “Abba, Father” plus the “right” to inherit our heavenly Father’s Home. Surely God’s Perfect Plan will lead us to say:
To God be the glory!