December 16, 2016

Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19

2 Samuel 7:18-22

Galatians 4:1-7

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.

[Galatians 4:4-5]

christmas-1aWe will hear the reading from Galatians on January 1, when the Church celebrates “The Name of Jesus.”

The Advent and Christmas seasons highlight the significance of family and friends in our lives. There’s no doubt that the gift of family is one of God’s greatest gifts.

Our family gives us a sense of identity. If you’ve ever doubted this, speak to someone who’s been adopted. Invariably an adopted person at some point in his or her life takes upon themselves the quest of finding their biological family. It means everything to them to them to know their ancestry.

Likewise, a person who does live with their biological relatives has a desire to know their genealogy. There are websites available, such as, which are making a ton of money on people’s intense desire to know their past, to document their history.

One of the greatest gifts I ever received was given to me by a pillar of the last congregation I served. Genealogy was his passion. Soon after being called to the congregation, he located a copy of my father’s birth certificate, which he found for me after I had told him of my failed attempts to do so.

Why would something like this excite me so?  Because it creates for me a connection with my past.  It is a way that I can keep my father’s memory alive in a tangible fashion.  Yes, we have pictures, and those are also great memories.  But a birth certificate gives a life a certain measure of authenticity.  It is an official record.

For the Jewish people, their genealogy was very important. It told you who your people were, what tribe they came from, and most importantly, if you were 100% Jewish or not.

Though we are not 100% Jewish, we are adopted children of God by virtue of God’s grace. God sent Jesus, so that we might receive adoption as God’s children and become part of God’s family.

When God gave us Jesus, it was a demonstration of God’s love for humankind.  It reminds us how committed God is to us and to our existence.

luther-galatiansMartin Luther explains it in his Commentary on Galatians this way:

Train your conscience to believe that God approves of you. Fight it out with doubt. Gain assurance through the Word of God. Say: “I am all right with God. I have the Holy Ghost. Christ, in whom I do believe, makes me worthy. I gladly hear, read, sing, and write of Him. I would like nothing better than that Christ’s Gospel be known throughout the world and that many, many be brought to faith in Him.”

Our adoption as God’s children means that we are no longer slaves to sin and there is absolutely no reason to return to a life of slavery. In Christ we are children of God and full heirs with him to all that God has promised. And the news gets even better. God is not finished with us, and is still at work in our lives and in creation.

For all this we say, “Thanks be to God,” and share this good news with others.

Holy God, we pray not only for our biological families but also for our Christian family of faith. Guard us from all danger and harm; deliver us from anger that leads to division; empower us to forgive as we have been forgiven; and send us into the world to witness to your love and grace. Amen

Published by pastorallende

Retired Bishop of the Northeastern Ohio Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Social justice and immigration reform advocate. Micah 6:8. Fluent in English and Spanish. I enjoy music and sports.

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