What would it be like if we all got the same gift for Christmas? What if everyone of us received the exact same pair of socks or the exact same gift certificate to the exact same fast food restaurant or the exact same two night stay at the exact same resort on the exact same weekend? Besides being kind of weird and not good for the overall economy of our country, it also might be pretty boring, if all of us got the very same thing.
But it is not boring in any way whatsoever – in fact, it caused the angels of heaven to fill the heavens with halleluiahs of praise — to know that we all really did get the very same gift for Christmas – the gift mentioned in the last verse of our Lesson – verse 7: “So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.” When God sent Jesus on Christmas Day, he made you part of his will. He made you an heir. He says you have an inheritance. And for this inheritance that God is talking about, you don’t have to wait until someone has died to receive it. You get to enjoy it right now. So, on this New Year’s Day I am encouraging you from God’s Word to enjoy it right now. With God’s help, brothers and sisters in our Lord, Enjoy Your Inheritance in 2023!
Now, like I said, you don’t have to wait until someone has died to enjoy this inheritance that God has given you, but it did depend on someone dying. It depended on someone dying for a special reason who was born in a special way. There is no doubt that Jesus was born in a special way. For one thing, the apostle Paul talks about it being “when the set time had come,” and for another thing, St. Paul says “God sent his Son.” This was no ordinary person born at no ordinary time. God worked out the entire history of the world so that, at the exact set time he had determined even before the world began, an emperor would want to take a census of the entire Roman world, and so that at the exact time he had determined a virgin named Mary would be expecting a child through the Holy Spirit, and so that at the exact time he had determined this little child would be ready to be born soon after Mary and her dear Joseph arrived in the little town of Bethlehem in order to be counted in that Roman census.
But also think about the mission God’s Son inherited from his Father when he came to the earth. He who gave the law was born, we are told, “under the law.” That means the holy Jesus took on a body like ours so that he would have to live like us in order to do something for us that only he as the holy Jesus could do – “to redeem those under law,” Paul says. Redeem means to pay a price to rescue someone from something – in our case, to rescue us from our inability to do what God says in his laws we must do.
What if there were Christmas gift laws? What would it be like if in order to get even one Christmas gift, let alone the gift you really wanted, it truly depended on whether you had been naughty or nice all year, beginning January 1. What would you be thinking as each day and week went by? Either you would be thinking, “Well, there goes Christmas, because I said too many bad things to that person or about that person, and it’s not even January 7 yet – and I don’t even want to think about all the shameful, pathetic thoughts I let come into my mind this month. There’s no way I am going to get any presents for Christmas.” Or you would try to make excuses for yourself or you would try to rationalize things in your brain and say something like, “Well, there’s no way anyone can expect someone to never be naughty and to always be nice – and I’m for sure much nicer than that person over there, so I should get a pretty nice Christmas gift just for trying.”
Either way, you would be wasting so much energy either feeling too guilty to get a gift or too self-righteous not to get one that you would be looking away from Jesus, the gift of Christmas, and forgetting that Jesus came to rescue us from thinking like that, when it comes not to getting a little earthly Christmas gift, but when it comes to getting the gift of heaven when we die. Jesus redeemed us from being under the domination of law-thinking by making us gospel-thinking – Christmas-gospel thinking. He came to live like us and to die like us, but to also live and die so much unlike us – to live and never sin and to die for the sin of others. And so the result for us of Jesus’ mission for his Father was, as St. Paul says, “that we might receive adoption to sonship.”
If we had stayed the way we were when we were born as sons and daughter of someone else, we would never have been eligible to receive any inheritance other than a death that would be an eternal one apart from God, but God tells us we have been adopted into his family as children of the heavenly Father. And that is our inheritance – our great Christmas gift. We get to enjoy right now what God in many places of the Bible says we will get to enjoy perfectly and forever in heaven.
God also tells us the specific way we get to enjoy our Christmas inheritance right now, when he says, “Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.” The phrase “the Spirit of God’s Son” is another way of saying the Holy Spirit. As we hear the message in the Bible of why Jesus was born – and how Jesus went to the cross – and that Jesus came out of the grave, the Holy Spirit uses those words to give us the faith to believe them. And as we keep hearing those words, he keeps giving us faith, even when at times we may feel like there is no hope or that we are unloved. He keeps keeping us in faith as we keep keeping in that Word. And as we stay in that Word, the Holy Spirit helps us remember that we can always call out to “Abba” – to our Father.
You may remember hearing that “Abba” is the way little children would talk to their father who loved them so. When we think of what our Father did in sending his Son at the set time in the working of his world, and when we think of what our Father did in sending the Holy Spirit into our hearts at the set time in the working of our lives, all we can do is say, “Abba, my dear Father, I love you so much. I love you so much, because you love me so much. And because you love me so much, I know you will listen to me when I talk to you about anything and everything that is on my heart. Please forgive everything I have done wrong, and please let me do whatever I can to show how much I enjoy being your child – how much I enjoy the inheritance you have given me: rescue from a life that would otherwise have been pitiful and miserable — and rescue for a life that you promise me will be purposeful and meaningful.
So, back to my question at the beginning about what would it be like if we all got the exact same gift for Christmas. There is a story not about someone getting the exact same gift for Christmas, but about someone who received the exact same gift every single day they were alive because they were the beneficiary of a will that was pretty unique, to say the least. Some of you may remember the once-upon-a-time famous comedian named Jack Benny. When Jack Benny died, the story goes that he left his dear wife Mary a single long-stemmed red rose every day for the rest of her life. By the time Mary herself passed away, she had received over 3,200 red roses from her late husband. I assume she never tired of getting the same gift every day.
Every day you and I have received so much more than even that sweet gesture of human love. We have received Jesus. We have received a brother. We have received our God. We have received adoption into God’s family. We have received redemption, rescue, real purpose, real peace, real joy. Every single day we receive an inheritance that never stops – and never will. So, enjoy your inheritance in 2023 — and forever after! A Blessed and Happy New Year to you all… Amen.