He Has Done All Things Well

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HE HAS DONE ALL THINGS WELL!

Our God has done all things well. He has left nothing out, and he works everything for the good of those that love him. This is a truth that bears repeating, especially these days when many ask, “Where is God?” We can boldly say we know him, and that he has done everything well for us!

Mark 7:31-37

Jesus Heals a Deaf and Mute Man

31 Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis.[a] 32 There some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged Jesus to place his hand on him.

33 After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue. 34 He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means “Be opened!”). 35 At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly.

36 Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it. 37 People were overwhelmed with amazement. “He has done everything well,” they said. “He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

All Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

Repeat the battle cry of the Archangel

16th Sunday of Pentecost, the Festival of St. Michael and All Angels. Why celebrate this festival of St. Michael and all angels? And why if Michael is an angel do we call him a saint?
What we are doing is not teetering into Catholicism by worshiping angels. Rather this service is a distinctly Christian thing to do. We are reminded today that our Lord Jesus commands his angels concerning us. Calling the archangel Michael a “saint” is not worshiping him. Rather, this fits well the definition of what a saint is, namely someone who is forever in God’s holy presence in heaven. It is in His presence we all will be one day with all the saints of God. There we will dwell and serve our God with his angels forever in glory!

Find True Strength in Weakness

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22nd Sunday after Pentecost
Isaiah 53:10-12

Intro:

Martin Luther once said, “The citizenship and home of Christians is not in this world but in heaven.  This is correctly taught, but not easily learned; rightly preached, but not so soon believed; well said but poorly practiced.  Were we to confess the truth, we would have to admit that we seldom think of the fact that we must at last depart and leave this life.”

I might argue with Dr. Luther and say, not just death, sir – but any weakness.  The weakness and frailty of our own lives.  The weakness of the world around us.  The weakness of those that we love and the things that we love.  Overall, I think Luther’s statement is quite right.  We get caught up in thinking about in our lives right now, that we forget that we have not been baptized into this life – we have been baptized into eternal life.

And our Lord Jesus Christ won that eternal life for you, not by some might show of strength, but in weakness.  The ultimate display of humility.  This is what we meditate on today as we focus on the Word of God from the Prophet Isaiah: that True Strength, is not found in the strong and mighty things of this world – but rather in the weakness of this life.

 

Part 1: Found in the Suffering Servant

God operates on a level that we can’t understand, and can hardly imagine.  This is evident in these words from Isaiah 53.  They are so contrary to our reasoning, our way of understanding, that this can only be the inspired word of God.  Apart from the fact that Isaiah recorded this very vivid description of Christ, 700 years before he walked the earth.  Consider the subject matter in verse 10.

Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.

It was the will of the Lord to crush him.  The Hebrew is not as nice as english.  Literally the word is it was the Lord’s pleasure to crush him.  It was the Lord’s Will and pleasure to put him to grief.  To make him experience all the weakness of this life that we experience.  Finally, it was God’s will that his soul be offered up as a guilt offering.

A guilt offering?  Hmm?  What’s that.  Lev. 7:2 The guilt offering is to be slaughtered in the place where the burnt offering is slaughtered, and its blood is to be splashed against the sides of the altar.

How does the Will of the Lord prosper if his champion, his servant is killed and has his blood splashed on the sides of the altar?  How does he prolong his days if he is dead?  How does he gain offspring if he is cut off from the land of the living?

What Isaiah is getting at is that the Lord doesn’t operate on our level of thinking.  I mean if you or I were God and we were at war with sin, death and Satan – what do we do?  I would storm the gates of Hell with ten thousand legions of angels.  Set up a massive kingdom here on earth and draw all people that way.  But this is an earthly understanding of strength and power.

God shames all earthly notions of what it means to be prosperous, successful, powerful, or strong.  As St. Paul says in 1 Corinthians, But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.

Jesus, the servant of the Lord, went through shame to glory, through death to life.  He conquers when he falls; he rules after being enslaved; he lives after he has died; he completes his work after he himself has been apparently cut off – His glory shines out of the deepest pit of humiliation.

Part II

Isaiah hints at this in v. 11.  Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.

 

From that deepest anguish, his most profound weakness, the weakness of the cross – Jesus sees and is satisfied!  It was in that most utter weakness that Christ was strongest.  Triumphing over sin, death, and the devil – with that loud triumphant cry, “It is finished.”  True strength is found in his weakness.

What does this tell us about our own weakness?  A medical diagnosis that shakes us to the core, financial hole that we can’t ever seem to get out of – the loss of someone that we love; a parent or a child.  And the memories that flood back to us, the memory of what once was – when you/they were strong – on your own two feet.

A few days ago, I was visiting a friend in the hospital.  And without going into detail, it’s enough to say that his life is falling apart around him.  He’s in the hospital, so he can’t work, so he can’t pay his rent or his car payment.  He’s basically a prisoner in his own flesh, confined to his hospital room.  I went in that room thinking that I might talk to him about Luke 12:7 “all the hairs of your head are numbered.”  But when I sat down and heard him talk, it became blatantly obvious that this poor man was in the throes of most profound weakness in life.  And the verse I just read, v. 11 jumped into my head.

What a pleasure it was, and a privilege to tell him that he has a brother in Jesus who bore his iniquities, as the verse says.  Any effect of sin, sickness, grief, poverty or weakness – these things Jesus knows for he bore them himself.

Brothers and sisters, seemingly strength is the illusion, weakness is the reality.  For we are all bound to these bodies that will grow old, or succumb to sickness and death.  We don’t need to deny that.  These verses are not here to slap a band-aid on a broken heart or a crushed spirit.  They are here that we might see the reality – That true strength is found in weakness.

Weakness is where God shows his strength.  What a comfort it is to know that he does not operate on our terms or by our understanding.  He finds us in our weakness.  He knows it for he experienced it himself.  It was through a display of weakness, by all human accounts, that God did the mightiest act in the history of the world.  By the nails in his Hands, the Will of the Lord succeeded, the many were declared righteous.

Part III

And it’s because of that weakness, my friends in Christ; that in the face of Satan, sin, death, any weakness that plagues us in this life – we are mighty, we are strong.  As the final verse for our consideration says today, “Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.”

Who are the many?  Who are the strong?  Isaiah is not suddenly talking about some other group of people!  The many who were transgressors, the many who were unrighteous, are now the many who are strong.  The Lord’s Servant, Jesus, was numbered with us, that we might be numbered with him!

In the gospel for today, we saw James and John seeking a place of greatness at Jesus side.  Truly, they didn’t know what they were asking because WE HAVE IT!  We are numbered amongst the great because of Christ.  WE who were/are sinners born in weakness, are raised mighty!

This is what Isaiah is talking about back in v. 10 when he says, “he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.”

Because Jesus, the servant of the Lord, went through shame to glory, through death to life.  He conquers when he falls; he rules after being enslaved; he lives after he has died – so we shall too!  From his weakness now we have been made mighty!

Conclusion:

Our Lord Jesus sits at the head of a great and mighty army – of which you and I are a part.  We will divide the spoils and conquer along with our king.  As the writer of Psalm 110 says, “The Lord will extend your mighty scepter from Zion, saying, “Rule in the midst of your enemies!” Your troops will be willing on your day of battle. Arrayed in holy splendor!”

So come what may!  Death, sickness, disease – name it!  You are a citizen soldier in the kingdom of Heaven.  You have a king that, in his weakness – shames the things this world calls strong. You have true strength in the face of sickness, grief, and death – because of his weakness. Amen.

Where is True Courage Found?

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4th Sunday of Easter
1 Samuel 17:34-37

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead! In the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ,

Do you ever have nightmares? I think we all know what they are but a nightmare is an elaborate dream full of imagery that incites us to fear, anxiety, stress, or sadness. We often remember them because they cause us to suddenly wake up and perhaps even in a sweat. Whatever it was that we were dreaming about seemed so real and so horrible and so terrifying. Even children can experience nightmares. There will be times when we’ll hear one of our children crying during the night and the only explanation is that they had a nightmare. But whatever it is that we have nightmares about can reveal to us what it is that we are actually afraid of in life. Maybe it’s losing something or losing someone, maybe it’s being humiliated or embarrassed, or being a failure of some kind. And everyone has different fears and it’s not always physical pain or death. Some people are more afraid of being humiliated or embarrassed or feeling like a failure than dying.

We humans, by nature, are fearful. In that way, we’re actually quite similar to sheep. As I understand it, sheep are very fearful and skittish. I once read a story about how some visitors came to a farm and had their tiny puppy jump out of the car and the mere sight of that unknown little animal caused the farmers entire flock of 200 sheep to stampede across the field in sheer terror. So what is it that makes you afraid? What gives you nightmares?

At the time of our text there’s a whole army that’s paralyzed by fear. The Israelites are at war with the Philistines. And they’ve drawn up battle lines. There’s one side, there’s no man’s land, then there’s the other line of battle. And every day the Philistine hero Goliath- who happened to be just a massive person – 9 feet tall, his armor weighed some 125 pounds. He would come out taunt the Israelites, mock them, insult God, mock God, and he made an offer. Instead of both armies fighting it out, they could pick one individual to fight for them and he would fight for the Philistines and whoever one that one-on-one match, that side would win the war.

But here’s the problem: King Saul isn’t fighting him, no one in the army is volunteering to fight him, they’re all cowering in fear. But there’s more, by NOT fighting him, they’re allowing him to go on these tirades insulting the Lord, mocking the Lord, and by allowing it they’re actually giving some credence to what he’s saying! They’re full of doubt about the Lord’s ability and power and love to rescue and deliver them!

But then comes David. He’s apparently for whatever reason not fit to be in the army. He’s been tending his father’s sheep. He comes bringing a care package for his brothers in the army and he hears what Goliath is saying and he’s appalled. He can’t believe no one is standing up to him, no one is confronting him. So, David says, “I’ll do it, I’ll go.” They bring David to Saul and Saul says, “You can’t go, you’re only a boy, and he’s an experienced soldier!”

But this is David’s reply. He’s been shepherding sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, David went over and above the normal call of duty – shepherds were not required to risk their lives on behalf of their flock- but David went after the lion or the bear, rescued the sheep from their mouths and when the vicious animals turned on him, he grabbed them and struck them, probably with a knife killing them. Now can you imagine what kind of a heart for sheep such action requires? I mean, I’ve never tended sheep, but I have a feeling that if I did and a lion took one of the sheep and I didn’t have a rifle, I’d probably write that sheep off. I can imagine David not relishing the idea of fighting a lion or a bear, but he had such care for the sheep that he did. Those would have certainly been challenging experiences, but notice what God was doing with them, He was training David for this moment. God often builds our trust in him by bringing us through challenging circumstances.

But notice David’s confession of faith: “This uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” Courageously David steps up and you know the end of the story, David defeats Goliath and Israel routs the Philistines.

So what does this mean for us? Who are we more like in this account? We all would probably like to think that we’re like David, but isn’t it true that we’re far more like Saul or one of the men in the army? Aren’t we all too often the cowards? Yes, we face many things in life, we can experience nightmares, maybe it’s losing someone, or losing something, maybe it’s being humiliated or embarrassed or feeling like a failure and that will drive us to live our lives in fear so that ________ doesn’t happen to us.

But the reality is, we face something much worse that we don’t often consider. God says, “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” What ought to fill us with a great amount of fear are the spiritual battles that we face day in and day out. The temptations to sin, the temptations to give anything less than 100 percent commitment to our spouse, the temptation to give more to our work and our jobs than to our families, the temptation to be angry, bitter, jealous, selfish, prideful. Like ignorant sheep we often wander right into sin and temptation and that ought to terrify us because any sin seperates us from our God and puts our souls and our salvation at risk!

We need courage. We need courage to face our fears, we need courage to face the daily battle against sin, Satan and temptation. Where is courage found? Saul had no courage- he just melted in fear. Goliath had courage, right? But it was a false courage. Goliath’s courage was in himself, in his strength, in his abilities, in his armor. But it was a false courage. He failed. Perhaps we might look at an account like this and get the wrong idea- the lesson is that I need to trust God more, if only I could find it in myself to have more faith, more courage so I can act like David against the big things in life that I’m facing. But all that is is Goliath type courage. True courage doesn’t come from yourself.

Rather, look at David. David had a shepherd’s heart, he put himself on the line in order to rescue a sheep. Against Goliath he really become a substitute, he represented the nation of Israel against Goliath, but he knew it wasn’t him who was going to win the victory, it was the Lord. By God’s grace we have an infinitely better shepherd than David. In Jesus we have a Shepherd who stepped into battle as our substitute. He faced something infinitely worse than a lion, a bear, or a Goliath, he faced the wrath of God for the sins of the world. He faced the nightmare of all nightmares. You see, the ultimate nightmare is standing before a holy and perfect God and having to answer for every careless word, every shameful thought and every disgusting deed we’ve done.

But that’s what your Good Shepherd, Jesus, faced in your place and in mine.  See, God doesn’t save us by giving us an example to follow, like be a better David, no, He saves by substitution. Jesus came so that His perfect life has become your perfect life, his innocent death has become the payment for all your sins, and his resurrection is your guarantee of eternal life. And knowing that is who your God is and who your Good Shepherd is gives true courage. Jesus, the Lord of the universe, left heaven to experience humiliation, rejection, pain, and death and all for what purpose? Only one: to rescue His sheep, to rescue you!

Knowing that gives true courage. Since Jesus faced the ultimate nightmare for me I can face the little nightmares of life knowing it’s going to be all right, I can face them all knowing that my salvation has been already won and eternal life is my future. Amen.

 

Thirst Quenching Grace

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2nd Sunday in Lent
John 4:4-26

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! In the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ,

Water, water everywhere nor any drop to drink. Have you heard that phrase before? It comes from the Rime of the Ancient Mariner. It means that out at sea you can be surrounded by water everywhere but not have a drop of water to drink. You see, water is absolutely important for our bodies. It’s likely that none of us have been around or seen someone die of thirst. Our bodies are made up of mainly water- 55-60 percent. In fact, if you had no food and no water, you would eventually die of dehydration before you would die of starvation. Since water is such a big part of your body if you don’t have it every part of your body cries out for it: headache, muscle cramps, then your tongues swells, your throat feels like its on fire, there’s intense burning and searing pain, before you lie down in torment and die. Now, if you’re stranded out at sea and you’re surrounded by water it can be awfully tempting to drink sea water to satisfy your thirst. But it doesn’t work. Sea water is 3 percent salt, that’s more salt than your kidneys can process so your kidneys actually have to use more water to dilute the salt, so drinking salt water actually causes you to die of dehydration faster and make you thirstier all the while. That’s how important water is to our bodies. But what Jesus says here in our text is that He has something that our souls need way more than our bodies need water and our bodies really need water. What Jesus gives is living water, soul-quenching grace. It’s a gift of God and a soul satisfying spring of water.

First, it’s a gift. We’re told that Jesus went through Samaria, in fact, the text says that Jesus “had to go through Samaria.” But normally you didn’t have to go through Samaria. In fact, most Jews chose to go around Samaria rather than right through it, but here we see Jesus go directly through Samaria. Why so? He had mission work to do. Jesus stops at a certain place, he’s tired, he’s thirsty, and he’s hungry. The disciples go into the town to buy some food. While Jesus is there a Samaritan woman happens to show up. And Jesus asks her for a drink.

Now there’s a number of interesting observations we have here. The woman is totally surprised by Jesus. Why? Because Jesus is blasting right through a bunch of barriers. First, there was a gender barrier in Jesus’ day. Apparently in that day, as it still is today in some middle eastern cultures, men did not converse publicly with women. Jesus blows that away. Next there’s a cultural, religious, racial barrier. Jews and Samaritans absolutely hated each other. Samaritans were part Jew, part heathen and the full-blooded Jews detested them and Samaritans detested the full-blooded Jews. Jesus was a Jew and he had no qualms about talking with a Samaritan. And finally there’s a moral barrier. You notice what time of day she’s going out to draw water. It’s noon time. It’s right at the heat of the day. No one drew water at the heat of the day and typically women didn’t draw water alone, they almost always went in groups. This woman is going at the heat of the day all alone. Why? As we’ll find out later she was a moral mess, perhaps ostracized from her society for her sinful lifestyle, and Jesus is righteousness and purity Himself! Jesus blasts through the moral barrier and associates with this woman even willing to drink a cup of water that she’ll provide.

That’s what Jesus does. Jesus associates with tax collectors, prostitutes, self-righteous Pharisees, lawyers, fishermen, lepers, Samaritans, and Canaanites. You see, what Jesus has come to give is a GIFT, the “gift of God.” If it’s a gift, it doesn’t exclude anyone, it’s for all. If there were any requirements on salvation it would no longer be a gift. If you had to do this, or do that, be this or be that, it would necessarily than be limited, it would no longer be a gift, it would be wages, it would be something that you worked for. This living water that Jesus brings is totally, 100% a gift of His grace. That means it’s for you- whoever you are, whatever your background, whatever your past, it’s for you.

The gospel breaks all those human barriers down. It doesn’t privilege anyone. It’s a gift. The way you lose out on wages is if you don’t work. The way you lose out on a gift is if you’re prideful and you reject it. Perhaps that’s why the gospel generally has more success with people who are poor and needy than with people who are rich and powerful. It’s a gift.

So, it’s a gift. But what Jesus gives is also a soul-satisfying spring of water. Jesus tells her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” Her interest is peaked, but who does this guy think he is? He can’t draw water from this well and does he think he’s greater than Jacob?? And Jesus answered her, “Everyone who drink this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” Now her interest is really piqued; she wants this water. What happens when your body is very thirsty and you finally are able to drink? The water tastes so, so sweet. You don’t want just a little sip, you want more! And that’s what the gospel is. That’s what the living water of Jesus is- when we get a taste we want more.

But notice what Jesus does next. Out of the blue Jesus says to her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” But this is a sore subject. She says, “I have no husband.” And Jesus responds, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband.” What is Jesus doing here? Why would Jesus say this? Obviously Jesus is the all-knowing Lord and He knows everything about her and her past. But what is Jesus pointing out to her? He’s pointing out to her that if she wants to know this living water that he’s offering to her, she has to understand that she’s already searching for it, she’s digging wells for it, but it’s not satisfying. She’s looking for this living water in relationships, in men, she’s had five husbands, but it’s not working, it’s not satisfying.

The church father Augustine said, “You have fashioned us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find rest in you alone.” In other words, we each have this gaping, huge, God-sized hole in us that only God can fill, only God can satisfy. And until we realize that we’ll be trying to fill that God-sized hole with anything. But if we try to find satisfaction for our souls in anything other than Jesus, it’s going to be like drinking sea water to quench our thirst- it only makes us thirstier and dehydrate faster. If we look for satisfaction in life to relationships, to careers, to jobs, to money, to success, anything in this life, it will never quench our thirst and we’ll always be searching for something more.

Thirst quenching, soul satisfying, peace filling water is found only in Jesus. How so? We notice the woman goes right to a different subject- about where to worship God, where’s the right place. Jesus’ answer is that really everyone should be worshipping in Jerusalem right now. But then Jesus says, “Yet a time is coming (literally the “hour is coming”) and has now come with the true worshipers will worship the father in spirit and in truth.” Very interesting is that in the gospel of John every time the word “hour” is used it always has in mind a very specific “hour.” It’s the hour of Jesus’ death, the hour of Jesus’ crucifixion, Jesus is the sacrifice to end all sacrifices, the temple to end all temples. Because of his “hour” people won’t need a temple or sacrifices to enter God’s presence. How is that possible?

Because as Jesus is dying the cross he will cry out, “I am thirsty.” How is it that Jesus gives forgiveness of all sins as a gift to any and to all? Because on the cross Jesus experienced the worst possible thirst ever. On the cross Jesus was cut off from the Father, he was feeling the devastating heat of God’s eternal judgment on all my sin, all yours, all the world’s! Jesus experienced the absolute worst thirst and dehydration for our sins, why so? So that we could have from him living water.

What does Jesus call it? “A spring of water welling up to eternal life.” That’s what Jesus gives you. He says to you: “I’ve washed your sins away in my blood shed on the cross for you. I allowed Roman hammers and nails to pierce my hands and feet on a cross to pay for your sins, forgiving every one of them. On the cross I experienced abandonment from God so you could experience His eternal love now and forever.”

And here’s what so beautiful about this image. You can fill in, clog up, bury a well. But you can’t fill up a spring. No matter how much junk or garbage or dirt you throw in a spring, it’s just going to keep bubbling on through. Jesus says, “I give you living water, my forgiveness, my grace, my peace, my acceptance so that no matter what happens in life, no matter what you face in life, no matter what junk or garbage gets thrown on your life, the joy you have in me and my living water will keep on bubbling through no matter what.” That’s real thirst-quenching grace! Amen.

God’s Son and sons

1st Sunday after Christmas
Galatians 4:4-7

Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests! In the name of Jesus, born to save us, dear friends in Christ,

It’s an eerie feeling, hard to describe. Every couple months I conduct a Bible study at the Beltrami county jail here in Bemidji. In order to do the Bible study I have to enter into the jail.  After checking my ID the guard radios to another guard who electronically unlocks the first door. I walk in and shut the door behind me. Then the next door is unlocked, I walk through and the door is secured behind me. I walk to the room where I have the Bible study and after the inmates have all gathered there is a click in the door and it’s locked. It’s an eerie feeling, hard to describe. When that door is shut, you’re locked in. Thankfully, I can leave whenever I want to. But not the prisoners. They are stuck, locked in, and I get a little feeling of that when the door shuts. What’s it like to be a prisoner? You can’t go wherever you want to go, you can’t do whatever you want to do, you can’t see whomever you want to see, you can’t eat whatever you want to eat.

The truth is, we all were born prisoners. You, me, everyone. We can’t leave whenever we want to. We can’t escape from this prison. We can’t do whatever we want. We were all born into the prison of sin. When you’re a prisoner you have to do whatever the guard tells you to do. You have to go to this cell block, you have to eat at this time, you have to wear these clothes, etc. That’s what it’s like in the prison of sin. We’re stuck. We lie. We cheat. We envy. We’re selfish. We’re self-centered. We’re greedy. We covet what isn’t ours. We fail to be kind. We fail to put others first. We fail to honor those in authority. We fail to help and befriend our neighbor in every bodily need. We fail to love and cherish our spouse. We fail to keep our thoughts, words, and actions pure. We fail to help improve and protect the property of others. We fail to encourage, to speak well of, to defend others. We fail to take someone’s words and actions in the kindest possible way.

And on our own we not only can’t leave this prison of sin but we have no desire to either! I’ve never met a prisoner in the Beltrami Jail who enjoys being there, who wants to be there, who doesn’t want to leave. But sin so depraves our thinking that we think sin is pleasurable, enjoyable, exciting, we run into it, we don’t want to leave it, we say to sin, “Lock me up! Enslave me! Make me your prisoner!”

Now, if you knew someone like that, someone who enjoyed breaking the law, who wanted to go to prison, would you post bail for them? Would you offer to defend them? Would you offer to take their sentence, be punished in their place? It wouldn’t even occur to us, but God did.

God went on a rescue mission. At just the right time God took action. And what did God do? God sent his Son. God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son. If you had ten sons, you wouldn’t dream of giving one of them up for a law-breakers, a prisoner, a scoundrel, but God gave up His own Son. “Born of a woman.” That baby lying in the manger is the God-man. God took on human flesh. God – who is above every law, because he made every law, God who could never steal because he owns everything, God who could never take any life because he made every life, put himself under the law. For what purpose? “To redeem those under law.” In other words, to liberate, to rescue, to deliver those under the law. To free us from our prison of sin.

And the goal? That we might receive “adoption to sonship.” If you remember the old NIV translation it was “to receive the full rights of sons.” They both say the same thing. But this is astounding. God not only sent Jesus, this baby lying in a manger to liberate us FROM something, but to liberate us FOR something. In the culture of the apostle Paul’s day it could happen that a wealthy individual who had no child could adopt a child. And when it went through there was an immediate legal status change: the new father immediately assumed all responsibility for the new child, all the child’s debts were immediately canceled and all the wealth of the father became the wealth of child’s. The new child became fully a new part of a new family with all the rights and responsibilities and rewards that came with it.

God didn’t just send Jesus to take on our human flesh, to be born of a woman, born under law, in order to liberate us, redeem us FROM our prison and bondage and slavery to sin, He didn’t just come to set us free FROM imprisonment, but He came to redeem us FOR being God’s own sons, God’s own children, to enjoy the full rights of sonship in God’s family.

This is incredible. But do you believe it? Do you think about the incredible ramifications of the fact that because of Jesus, because of this babe born in Bethlehem, you are God’s own son? You are God’s own child? Do you grasp that? Do you live like it? Do you live with the inexpressible joy of being God’s child, an heir of God and co-heir with Christ?

Or do we go through life plagued with guilt? Do we go through life feeling like God is distant, unattached, unconcerned with our lives? Do we go through life filled with fear, worry, anxiousness, concern? What will this new year bring? What difficulties and challenges and disappointments am I going to face? Is God going to finally give me the trouble I deserve for my sins against him?

How could we think that about our God? Look at what he tells us here! God first sent His son on the rescue mission: born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, why so? So that we might enjoy adoption to sonship, full rights of sons, a legal status change: you are God’s own child, you mean just as much to the Father as His own Son Jesus, you’ve been adopted into his family. But God also knows that we struggle with appropriating this to our lives, applying it, and living in it. So God sends someone else. The Holy Spirit.

Imagine a young son and a father walking hand in hand along the side walk. Then all of a sudden the father lifts his boy up and give him a big hug and kiss. The son was no more or less a son of his father when he was walking hand in hand than he was when his father was hugging and kissing him, but he felt it, experienced it, and was deeply reminded of his status as his father embraced and kissed him. The Holy Spirit using His tools- the means of grace – the gospel in Word and Sacrament is the Father embracing and kissing you reminding you of your adoption to sonship in God’s family.

And the Holy Spirit reminds you of two things here: confidence and inheritance. “God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’” That’s our confidence. The word “abba” was a term of endearment a child had for his father, like dad or daddy. “Abba, I need a drink of water.” “Abba, hold my hand.” “Abba, help me.” Because of Jesus, because of your adoption into God’s family, that’s the closeness and confidence you have with the almighty and everlasting God. You can approach him at any time, with anything on your heart, and trust that He is your dear father in heaven.

And secondly, “So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son God has made you also an heir.” That means all the Father’s wealth is your wealth. The inheritance is yours. Heaven, the home of God, is your home, forever. Eternal riches, eternal glory, eternal joy- all the wealth of the Father is yours…forever.

The Holy Spirit is the kiss of the Father. In the work of that baby in the manger, God’s eternal Son, you were freed, redeemed, liberated from the prison of sin. Through holy baptism you were adopted as God’s own son and heir. Through the Word you hear again and again the comforting and assuring voice of your Father. Through the Lord’s Supper the Father presses to your lips the very body and blood of His Son as a guarantee that you are part of His family, His own child, His own son, His own heir.

That’s what Christmas is about. When the time had fully come God sent His Son so that you might be His son, His child, His heir forever. Live as God’s child. Amen.