Sunday after Christmas
Nothing is more
pathetic than a son who desperately wants the approval of his father but
cannot get it. He knows
what his father wants him to do. But
he just can't do it. He
keeps trying to win that ever-illusive approval, but it always remains
out of his reach. Such a son cannot really love his father.
He may fear him, possibly even respect him, but he cannot love
and trust in a father whose approval he simply cannot obtain.
And, of course,
this is the condition of every sinner who stands before God without
faith in Jesus Christ. It
is not enough to believe that God is our father and we are his children. This is the faith of many who donít know Christ.
We must know that God our Father loves us and accepts us as we
are. We must know that we
have his joyful approval of us. We
must know that he regards us, not as the child who brings him nothing
but disappointment because of his failure, but as the child whom he
honors and to whom he gives every blessing in heaven and on earth.
And we cannot know God in this way unless we know him through
Christ his Son.
the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth his Son.
How does God
love us? Look and see how
much he gave. Long before
the fullness of the time had come, in fact, before time had begun, God
the Father loved his only begotten Son.
God is love, St. John writes.
And God has always loved. Before
the world was created, in eternity, God, who is pure love, loved.
God the Father loved God the Son.
He rejoiced in him. He
honored him. He approved of
him. No love of human
imagination can compare with that eternal, divine love which the Father
has always had for his only begotten Son.
No love is more pure, more holy, more devoted, more intense.
No love is broader, deeper or longer lasting.
It was this
Son, this eternally beloved Son, whom God the Father sent forth in the
fullness of time. At just
the right time. At the time
appointed by God to fulfill all biblical prophecy.
sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law.
This is, as we
know, the mystery of the incarnation.
God the eternal Son of the eternal Father has now been born of a
woman, taking on himself our human nature.
And that was not all. He
was also born under the law. But
the law had no claim on him. The
Bible says that the law was made for sinners, but this child was born
without sin and remained entirely free from any kind of sin.
Not only that, but he was the eternal God.
He was the giver of the law.
The law has no jurisdiction over God.
Still he chose to be born under the law because this is what
divine love required of him. The
Father who had loved him from eternity now in time sent him to become
one of us and to be placed under the law which we had broken.
redeem those who were under the law that we might receive the adoption
All of us were
that pathetic son who so desperately wanted the approval of his father
yet could not get it. God
the Son was born of a woman, born under the law, that we might receive
that approval from God that we were powerless to gain for ourselves.
We lived under the accusation of the law. God's holy law accused us and it had every right to accuse us
because we were disobedient to its holy demands. God's law had every right to condemn us and that is what it
The law had no
right to accuse Christ. It
had no right to condemn him. Yet
this is what the law did. Christ
took our place under the law. He,
the sinless Son of the Father, took the place of sinners.
He, the only obedient one, took the place of the disobedient. He paid to the law what the law demanded from us.
The law had no right to demand it from Christ, still Christ is
the one who met the demands of the law.
And the law had no right to condemn Christ, yet Christ is the one
who received condemnation.
So what do we
have, here? We have Christ
stepping between us and the lawís demands, stepping between us and the
lawís threats. This is
what the Bible means when it says that Christ redeemed us who were under
the law. Now we who have Christ, who have been baptized according to
his command, who are trusting in him, are adopted as sons of God.
Our text says sons, because the son was the heir of everything
the father had. Just as
Christ is the eternal Son of the eternal Father and has everything that
belongs to the Father, just so we who have Christ have everything that
because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your
hearts, crying out, Abba, Father!
Let us take to
heart this precious truth this morning so that we can be sure of who we
really are and where we really stand before God.
What do you think God, your Father, thinks of you?
How does he regard you? Is
he, even now, putting you under trial?
Or, do you have his full approval?
It is very easy
for us to learn the correct doctrinal formulations and still to live as
if that biblical teaching had nothing to do with us.
Do we live under God's approval or not?
May we in confidence cry out to God, calling him Abba, that is,
the address of a trusting child to his dad?
Or should we assume that unless and until we get our act together
God will stand in judgment against us?
The Holy Spirit
who inspired these words of Galatians 4 is the same Spirit who has come
into our hearts and established our Christian faith.
He wants us to have every confidence that we do have God's full
approval, that God is not putting us on trial, that we have, right now,
the full right to believe that every treasure of heaven belongs to us.
you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God
Notice what our
text says. It does not say
that you will become an heir of you do this or that or the other thing.
It says that you are an heir, right now, through Christ.
It is not a promise that waits for you and me to do our share
before it comes a reality. It
is firm, it is true, it may be relied upon right now, and it should form
the basis for everything we say and do as God's children.
What should we
do when we feel like that tormented son who so much wants but cannot get
his fatherís approval? To
what can we appeal when we feel only Godís judgment and our sin and
cannot rest secure in his love? We
must appeal to the truth of Christmas, that when the right time came
Godís eternal Son did indeed do what God had promised.
He really did step between the law and us and he silenced the
lawís judgment against us. This
is the divine reality in which we Christians live.
We must learn to tell the law to keep its proper place.
Should the law instruct us on what is pleasing to God, we will
listen. After all, donít
children want to please a loving father?
And should the law tell us that we indeed deserve nothing but
punishment from God we will say, ďAmen we certainly do, and this is
why God in love sent his Son to take our punishment upon himself.Ē
But should the law begin to tell us Christians that we donít
have Godís approval, that we cannot be sure that we are heirs of
everlasting life, that our God does not take pleasure in us and rejoice
in us, then we will tell that law to keep silent.
We will point the law to Christ and say: ďFind fault in that
man! Show me where that man
has disobeyed. Point out
how that man has disappointed his Father or failed to do what you
demand.Ē And when the law
cannot find fault in Jesus, we will then tell the law to cease in its
judgment against us, because Jesus belongs to us, and everything he did
he did for us.
pretend to have a Savior and we donít have a pretend Savior.
We have a real Savior who was really born, who really placed
himself as our substituted under Godís holy law and really did deliver
what we could not deliver. He
really suffered and he really died, so he really did pay what we owed to
God. And this gospel of
Christ has really been given to us by the Spirit of Christ and because
of this we will take on stand on the gospel and refuse to let the
threats of the law discourage us or keep us from making the confident
claim: ďI am a son of God! I have the approval of God!
God regards me as righteous, holy, and blameless, on account of
Christ. And as surely as
God's law could find nothing in Christ to condemn, I who claim Christ my
Savior cannot and will not be condemned.Ē
We have the right to pray to our God with every confidence that
he gladly hears and answers every prayer.
Jesus came into this world so that we today might, in the words
of the little catechism, ďWith all boldness and confidence ask God as
dear children ask their dear Father.Ē
pray for miracles. Others
pray for wealth. Some pray
for dramatic signs. But God
gives us far greater things than these.
He gives us the right to call him Abba, Father.
We donít pray in order to get Godís approval.
We pray because have already have his approval because of Christ.
We donít pray in order to gain a hearing from God.
We pray because Christ has already gained this for us.
We donít pray in order to change Godís heart or affections. We pray because we are indeed his holy children to whom his
heart and affections were given in the manger and on the cross.
We know that we are Godís dear children because the Holy
Spirit, who is the Spirit of truth, tells us so in our baptism.
We know who we are.
astray. They forget who
really loves them. They
make deliberate and wrong decisions to ignore the voice of their father
and mother. And Christians
go astray. They ignore
their Father in heaven by despising the gospel and sacraments of his
Son, thereby shutting out the voice of the Holy Spirit.
They forsake holy mother church, leaving behind her comfort and
her love. They stand
accused. They may talk
about being children of God, but they donít know what it means
anymore. They have fallen
into slavery. The law is
their master, and he cruelly accuses them.
They are prey
for every religious con artist who comes along, promising them if only
they do this or pray that or go through a certain religious exercise or
decision, they will find God. But
of course, it is all a con. We
know, brothers and sister, where our loving Father is to be found. Our Father is here with our mother, the church.
He is here where Christ is proclaimed, where his gracious word
and sacraments are given to us. He is here among us, inviting us to cast our cares on the one
who cares for us. We are
here as well. We are
children who love the approval of their Father and who have it and know
they have it because they have the Fatherís dear Son Jesus Christ.
Since God no
longer puts us on trial, we no longer put one another on trial. We look at one another as God looks at us.
Since we know what it is like to feel the judgment of Godís
holy law we donít stand in judgment of our brothers and sister in
Christ. Since we have
received in Christ the forgiveness of all our sins, we forgive those who
have sinned against us. In
this way the gospel of Christmas bears rich fruit in our lives and the
same love we have received binds our hearts together as one.
Rev. Rolf D. Preus