by The Rt. Rev. Daniel R. Morse
When the world had learned that all human efforts, philosophies, and ideas were to no avail to cure the disease of sin, God sent forth his Son. This day is really not the Sunday after Christmas but the Sunday after Christmas Day, for the great Christmas truth is still before us. We are in the middle of the 12 days of Christmas. We now learn the truth of the Incarnation as it affects our relation to God.
St. Paul says, “Though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.” He is always the same, as Infant, as King, at Easter, at the Ascension, or at his Last Coming— the Crucified. As we stand at the Manger, we see the Cross looming behind it. In the tender hands of the Babe we see the wounds of the Crucifixion.
Why did Christ become a little child and endure so many difficulties? The Epistle opens with a picture from everyday life. A rich man, a king, dies and leaves his whole estate to a minor son. As long as the heir is still a child, he has no right to administer the property, but he remains under obedience of his guardian and tutor. There is visible difference from a slave. He must ask for everything and be thankful for all that is done for him. But as soon as he has reached manhood, he becomes lord and ruler. Here St. Paul compares the Old Law with the New Law. Under the Old Covenant, the people were already heirs of the promised redemption, but they remained minors, without the right to administer the benefits of salvation, for they were still servants in God’s eyes. At the coming of Christ all this was changed. “When the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” Through Christ’s birth we were made children of God. We are no longer servants as in the Old Testament. Instead we are the beloved children. For this Child willed to become a child that we might know we are the children of God.
I. The Son of God
A. The Truth of the Incarnation. “God sent forth his Son.” This Son was pre-existent. He was before he was sent. He was divine, for he was with God before he was sent from God. “Born of a woman.” He was human. “Born under the Law.” He accepted the position of those he came to save. He came to share not only our humanity but our slavery. Our condition was that all mankind were sinners, and because of our sin God had confined all mankind in a position of slavery under the Law. Christ took upon himself the form and position of a slave in his relation toward God, even though this relation had been caused by sin. God’s children had become merely slaves, so Christ took upon himself the form of a slave. Though he was free of sin, he accepted the low estate to which sin had brought us.
B. The human race was then in its minority. This was true also of the Jews. Though they were heirs of God, they were still treated as children and expected to obey as slaves. Their position was preparatory, “until the date set by the father.” They were not yet capable of freedom but were under “guardians and trustees.” They were learning elementary lessons, and lessons pertaining to life in this world, “the elemental spirits of the universe,” and lessons very hard and burdensome, for they were “slaves.”
II. The Children of God
A. Christ humbled himself to our condition and assumed our relation toward God, but only in order that he might change this relation by “redeeming those who were under the Law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” This new relationship to God came by the Incarnation of the Lord from heaven. Christ came and took our human flesh and human nature, and through him we are adopted into the family of God.
B. This is not merely a change in name only. With our new position as children of God we are given the power to gain a new disposition. With our new relation is given the power to acquire a new kinship with God. “Because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts,” to enable us to realize and act out our adoption. It is not because we are spiritual that we are made sons, but because we are sons, we receive the assistance of the Spirit. As many as are led by the Spirit become children of God in the fullest meaning of the word and shall in due time, as heirs of God, enter into perfect communion with God in heaven. This is the final goal of the Incarnation. Union and communion with God the Father through Christ his Son by the power of the Holy Spirit.
III. Eating with God's Son
The thoughts of your hearts are revealed by your attitude toward the Child born in Bethlehem. You make your thoughts clear today by your appearance at the Lord’s Table. By eating and drinking his body and blood you declare: “I believe that for me he gave his body into death, for me he shed his blood, that I may have forgiveness, life, and blessedness.”
But you must not think that you have met all requirements by professing your faith in his salvation. Are we to be just ornaments? By coming to this table you also promise to serve Christ in his Kingdom. We can render him no service directly, for he needs nothing. We have been baptized. Whom have we brought to Holy Baptism? We have been confirmed in the faith by constant instruction. Whom have we instructed or brought to be taught? We are united with our Lord in the Holy Communion. Whom have we helped to restore to their Communion? We have the sign of the holy Cross on our forehead from Holy Baptism. How far have we driven that Cross into our social relationships, our business, our school life? How far have we carried it into our community, impressed it on our relationships, stamped it into our lives?
Into his face we look, as we kneel before him in Holy Communion, and pray: “Lord Jesus, I have resolved afresh to be Your follower and servant. Fill me with Your Spirit and make me a better follower, a better servant.”