Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Why do we like receiving gifts? Well, receiving gifts can help to uplift our mood. It can make us feel special in most cases. A gift shows that someone else is thinking about you. A well chosen gift, that shows intimate knowledge of you, can actually demonstrate just how much they care for you. Overall, this is a joyous event for us and its part of what makes our celebration of Christmas special. As you unwrap your gifts to each other and reflect upon the meaning of Christmas, this third day of Christmas is a good time to reflect upon the gifts which God has sent to you. St. Paul in this morning’s epistle reading notes three gifts which God has sent to you. Let’s open them together.
God Sent His Son
Paul does not give us any story about the birth of Jesus in his letters. But, he does talk about what Jesus’ birth means. This is the first gift from God in this passage. God sent his Son. Notice the obvious: God sent his Son. We did not call for him. God in his love sent the world the gift we needed the most. God’s Son became a human being. The almighty Creator was a baby. God slept in a manger. But, why did he need to send his Son in the first place?
God sent His Son to purchase our freedom from slavery. Jesus was sent so that through his death freedom could be bought and the slaves could set free. We think we’re free, but we’re actually enslaved. “The one who sins is enslaved to Sin,” as Jesus said. The Law is our spiritual MRI, peering deeply into the heart of all that we think, do, and say. Our life, our world, and “every good gift and every perfect gift” come from the goodness of our Creator. But, instead of showing God the recognition and appreciation he deserves, we’ve become disconnected from him. Instead, we are slaves to our own desires. The heart that does not fear, love, and trust in God above all things is unhooked from God, it covets, lusts, envies, hates, murders, adulterates, imagines and motivates all manner of perversion, evil, lies, steals, and slander.
The one whom God sent as a gift for us, was perfectly qualified to purchase our freedom. He is God’s Son. He was born of a human mother. He was human as well as divine, the one and only God-man. And He was born ‘under the law.’ Throughout His life He submitted to all the requirements of the law. He succeeded where all others before and since have failed. He perfectly fulfilled the righteousness of the law. If he had not been a human, he could not have redeemed humans. And if He had not been God’s Son, he could not have redeemed humanity. God sent His Son as a gift to us. What our Saviour Jesus does is that he buys us back. The cost was great—no less than his own life. We cannot gaze upon the child at Bethlehem without realising that his little hands would soon be “pierced for our transgressions.” This little child would be “crushed for our iniquities.” This is God’s tremendous gift to us. “God sent his Son.”
God Sent His Spirit
But there is another gift: God also sent His Spirit into our hearts. God’s purpose was not only to redeem us by His Son, but to send us his Spirit. Through Word and Sacraments, God sends the Spirit to us and he works within our hearts to apply the first gift to us. The Spirit meet us in community, through bodily signs, water, wine, the heard words of preaching, and the written word. There are two reasons why the Spirit comes to us.
First, God sent His Spirit that we might have the status of sonship. Your status has changed. You are no longer slaves but sons. You have a place in your God’s family. You have a new identity and a new family. In Roman law, adopted sons had the same legal status and inheritance rights as biological sons. We are all adopted sons. You are sons of God, baptized in the Son of God. The girls too. You’re all “sons” in the sense of heirs. Remember that in Christ there is “neither male nor female.” And this change of status is from God. You are all sons in the Son, because God Himself is our Father, and you were born again by the Spirit and the Word. You, baptised Christian, are no longer a slave but a son, and if you are a son then you are an heir. An heir of the King. Your inheritance is eternal life.
Second, God also send His Spirit so that we might have an experience of being God’s Children. There is a spiritual remaking, a re-creation by which the sinner becomes child of God. That new beginning is the work of the Spirit. We are rescued from the dominion of sin and enabled with right desires to love God and begin to keep God’s commandments. But, you can see this work of the Spirit through the affectionate, confidential intimacy of our access to God in prayer. When we pray to God, we have the attitude and the language not of slaves, but of sons. You have permission, the privilege, to call upon God as your Abba, Daddy.
So the gift of the Holy Spirit in us, gives us new life and helps our prayers. This is a precious gift for all God’s children. It is ‘because you are sons’ that God has sent the Spirit of His Son into your hearts. No other qualification is needed. There is no need to recite some formula, or fulfil some extra condition. If we are God’s children, and because we are God’s children, God has sent His Spirit into our hearts.
Our relationship with God is founded and built on these two gifts: God sent his Son into the world for us, and he sent his Spirit into our hearts. What we are as Christians, as God’s children and heirs of eternal life, is not through our own merit, it’s not through our own effort. It’s ‘through God’, through His initiative of grace, who first sent His Son to be born of the Virgin Mary, and to die for us. He then sent His Spirit to live in us. God’s gifts to us will not be revoked, regardless of how well we live up to our own expectations or the expectations of others. We have a fresh start — not by our own will power, but through the gifts of God in sending his Son, buying us out of slavery with his own blood, and sending the Spirit into our hearts, claiming us as God’s children. These are God’s gifts to you. Merry Christmas.
May the peace of God, which passes all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.