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These words of God through the Apostle Paul are filled with meaning. Let’s take a look at some of the things that are packed into these few sentences.
When the set time had fully come. There was a time set by God. Already in eternity God had determined this exact time to be just the right time for him to send the world a Savior. It did not happen by accident. Nothing in this world happens without God’s knowledge. Nothing that happens in this world can nullify his plans, especially his plan to fulfill his promise to Adam and Eve and all their descendants to send into the world the one who would crush Satan’s head.
When the set time had fully come, God sent his Son to be born of a woman. His Son, the one who is the second person of the Godhead, one with the Father from all eternity, God from God, light from light, of one being with the Father. God sent his Son to be born of a woman, to fulfill the promise he made to Adam and Eve that the one who would crush the serpent’s head would be a seed of the woman, born of a virgin, Immanuel, God with us.
Why did it have to be this way? Why did the Son of God have to be born of a woman? So that he would be born under the law. As true God he was not under the law. He was not subject to the laws of gravity. He was not subject to time and space. He was not subject to any human authority. It was impossible for him to do anything that was against his own will. He had to be born into this world so that he could experience what we do, so that he could experience temptation, but, unlike Adam and Eve, he would defeat every temptation he faced. He had to become one of us so that he could be our substitute under the law and keep it perfectly in our place.
Jesus was born under the law in order to redeem those under the law. A price had to be paid. Justice had to be carried out. The price God demanded before we could be set free from sin and Satan was not only that his law be kept perfectly, but that someone take on the punishment the law demands when it is broken. The punishment the law demands is that those who break it be separated from God, that they suffer Hell. That’s the price Jesus paid. On the cross he was forsaken by the father thereby taking on himself the punishment we deserve. God’s justice is satisfied. As Luther reminds us, Jesus redeemed us, not with gold or silver, but with his holy precious blood and his innocent suffering and death in our place.
Jesus redeemed us at a great price, not so that we would be on our own and free to do whatever we wanted, but so that we would be adopted as sons. Now, by the power of his word, the good news that we have heard tonight, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts to shout, “Abba, Father!” Now, we who were alienated from God, separated from him by our sins and headed for eternal separation from him and everything good; now, in Jesus, we are reconciled to God. We can call God “daddy”, Father. We can approach in in prayer without fear, as dear children approach their dear fathers, anytime, anywhere, knowing that he will hear and answer. And if sinful human fathers delight in giving good things to their children, how much more does God delight in showering us with everything good, everything we need for body and life, and eternal salvation too!
What’s so great about being adopted as God’s sons? It means you are no longer a slave. By your natural birth you were a slave to sin, ruled by the devil and headed to eternal life in Hell. But through your second birth by water and the Spirit you are adopted by God, an orphan rescued from a fate worse than death. You are a son of God! And if you are a son, then you are also an heir of God through Christ. As a son of God, you are in line to inherit what he has, all the riches and glory of heaven are yours, not because you earned or deserved them, but by inheritance. Through faith in Jesus, you are an heir with him of eternal life.
Christmas reminds us that Jesus set aside the glory and riches of heaven itself to come to earth and live and die in our place. He did it so that, through his poverty we might become rich, we might be adopted as God’s sons and enjoy the glory and riches of heaven with him forever.