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Friday, December 26, 2008

All Creation Was Waiting (Galatians 4.3-7)

Christmas Eve – December 24, 2008
Sermon by: Robert Austell
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It’s hard to wait. It’s hard to wait for anything. Especially when we can get just about anything anytime, it’s hard to wait. But here at Christmas, we still do it. We don’t have to; we could tear into our presents any old time. But we know the joy of waiting until just the right time… until Christmas morning, gathered around the tree. There’s not a more magical time than when a child’s eyes crack open in the dim light of just-dawn and the adrenaline surges through their body. It’s Christmas morning… the waiting is over… it’s time!

God’s people had been waiting a long, long time for God’s gift. It was first spoken of amidst the curse there as the first parents were being expelled from the Garden. It was promised to Noah in the wake of horrible judgment and consequence. It was promised to Abraham and all his descendants, later renewed with David and others. God would one day give a gift to restore those consigned to death through disobedience. God would one day make things right and make a way home.

But for many years, there was only Law. God had spoken and His Word was Law. It described what was right, what freedom and obedience could look like. But for broken, disobedient, imperfect – in fact, perfectly imperfect people – the Law only sealed our fate. It only served to remind us that we were slaves to self and chained by our hard hearts to death and separation from God. No one could keep it; no one was pure.

And so we waited. One day God would do what we could not, for He had promised, and what other hope was there? The Law was good for that, for driving us to hope, the promise of freedom inscribed on the chains that enslaved us.

What we needed was for God to act – to send help, to rescue us and purchase our freedom. That’s the gift and the promised help. None of us could fulfill the requirement of God’s Law; only God Himself could do that. So God wrapped Himself in human flesh – no, more than that, He came among us as one of us, to be and do what we could not be and do. He took our place under the weight and judgment of His own rules, His own Law, and set us free in exchange. It was a wonderful and awful exchange – God’s own Son in exchange for each of us.

It was even more than freedom, though. God’s great gift was freedom + belonging. It was release from the dungeon and an invitation, not to the streets, but to a home. The scripture calls it adoption. We have some inkling what that means, though the spiritual reality leaves us speechless. No longer prisoners, God invites us to be sons and daughters. It is an extraordinary change of scenery. Our most extreme story of human adoption could barely describe the reality. From a prison camp in the remotest part of the world, we are brought fully round to a warm, loving living room, with family on every side.

Is it no wonder that we don’t know the language and resist the new way of life? It is so alien to whence we came. Yet God not only sends a redeemer, but also His Spirit, to give us the words to call Him “Father.”

Of course we are called “heirs.” How else would one with so little describe this new life with so much? Our chains have been exchanged for a gift worth more than pure gold. It’s hard to even wrap our minds around!

Here’s the Good News – the birth that we celebrate at Christmas means that the spiritual wait is over forever. In the most significant sense, every day is Christmas day for our relationship with God. Generations waited on God to act and when the time was just right, in God’s perfect timing, Jesus the Son of God was born.

The fullness of time has come, and IS. God has acted and this greatest of all gifts has been given to the world. That is why we sing, “Joy to the world, the Lord IS come.” God’s gift has ongoing and eternal implications for the world and for you.

If you know the weight of bondage – to self, addiction, disobedience, or any other enslaving thing – the Lord is come.

If you feel the aloneness of the orphan, the lonely, the outcast, or the hopeless, the Lord is come.

If you have heard God’s story, want to believe, but lack the language, the conviction, the identity, and the reality of what He promises, the Lord is come.

On this night in which we re-create the longing and we wait for morning to come, let us find the deepest peace and hope in the Good News of God’s coming. All creation was waiting for this – Jesus, God’s great gift. Amen.

All Creation Was Waiting*
By Robert Austell, Christmas Eve – 2008

Time drawn out,
Such a difficult wait
No sign of first light
Time drawn out

Eyes flutter again
Sky lights with first dawn
Strength surges within
Eyes flutter again

In the fullness of time
God sent forth His Son
The greatest of all God’s gifts
All creation was waiting for this

So long in those chains
Heard right but chose wrong
Hurt, broken, in pain
So long in those chains

In the fullness of time
God sent forth His Son
The greatest of all God’s gifts
All creation was waiting for this

Fatherless and forsaken I wandered the earth

From prison, called home
Not just to the streets
From slave to full-born
Child to the King

In the fullness of time
God sent forth His Son
The greatest of all God’s gifts
All creation was waiting for this

*The sermon-song I almost completed in time, but didn’t. [Sorry, no music yet.]

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