Christmas and our adoption

Christmas is a wonderful & powerful reminder of how the entire human family has been adopted by God the Father, in and through Jesus. I'm working on a sermon that addresses this topic. I'm studying two passages: Jeremiah 31:7-14 & Ephesians 1:3-14. In my studies I ran accross this following analysis from Currents in Theololgy and Mission in an article by Aaron Couch. I thought the readers of The Surprising God Blog would find this helpful and inspiring. Merry Christmas.

[Concerning Jeremiah 31:7-14]

The joyful character of this reading is expressed in the series of imperatives at the beginning of the reading: sing, shout, proclaim, praise! Such happiness springs from the promise of God to gather and restore Israel. God will show intimate care and concern by leading the people with consolations, by brooks of water, and in a straight path where they shall not stumble. The reason for such wonderful care is to be found in God's declaration: "I have become a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn" (NRSV).

While one might argue the NRSV translation, it is worth noting that the present perfect, "I have become," fits well with the emphasis in chapter 31 on a "New Covenant." Jeremiah declares that God will now forgive the sins of the people and establish a new covenant with Israel. In a new way, now God has become a parent to Israel. God will be their source of protection and the one who provides for their needs. The nation that came to an end under the power of foreign empire will know a new beginning and a new future. This new future is the reason for the exuberant language that celebrates the goodness of God.

[Concerning Ephesians 1:3-14]

Following the theme of parenthood, this reading employs the image of adoption to suggest the surpassing and surprising goodness of the gift we receive from God. We can never construe relationship with our Creator as our right. Rather, it is a gift of God's good pleasure, given through Jesus. Similar in tone to the exuberant joy of the first reading, Ephesians pours out praise for the goodness of God. Purely by grace we have been blessed, chosen, destined for adoption as children, redeemed, and forgiven. According to God's good will, we have received gift upon gift, an inheritance of mercy, finally being marked with the seal of the Holy Spirit as the pledge that we will receive all good things from God.

"No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father's heart, who has made him known" (John 1:18). While the Father remains hidden, Jesus has shown us the Father (see also John 14:9-10). In the life and ministry of Jesus, the heart of God is revealed. Because of Jesus, we know God as our heavenly parent whose heart is full of love for the whole creation.

As I reflect on the image--on the reality!--of being a child of God by adoption, I smile with joy, both for God and for myself. What a source of joy for God it must be to adopt the whole human family, to claim us in love as precious children. What a test and trial it must have been for God, enduring through waiting and rejection. What a joy it must be--must be!--for us, who through no merit of our own have been received in love and made children of God. And from our loving heavenly parent we receive gift upon gift. Our sins are forgiven, our guilt and shame are wiped away, and we have been drawn into an eternal relationship of love and blessing.


Anonymous said…
Hi there!

I have noticed that in the discussion about our adoption, the issue of wrath lurks oh so close. I mention this in that I find that, all too often, Christianity has succeeded in stealing hope from most people by making God seem generally upset with humans. One way it does so is by saying that if a person does not confess Jesus (and mean it) by the time of their death, well, they will be consigned to the fires of hell forever. This blunt condemnation leaves so many people wondering with great sadness, anguish, and torment about their status with God and especially about their unsaved loved ones who have already died. So, where is the hope in all that?

Well, thank God that this no hope teaching is not the teaching of the New Covenant. You see, death is not an obstacle to God. In fact, God is so big that He is (Surprise! Surprise!) actually bigger than death! So how does God handle saving people--even those who have already died?

Well, Paul in Romans 11 shows us that God is in the salvation (adoption) business. Paul further shows that God will save Israel even if He has to bring them back from the dead. Furthermore, Paul shows that Israel can easily be grafted back if they move into belief. But here is the great blessing in the deal, which is that God will show mercy sooner or later to everyone, meaning both Israelite and Gentile! As Paul says:

Rom 11:32--For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all. (NIV)

Now, even modern Christianity will generally agree with the "bound
all (meaning everyone) men over to disobedience" part of Romans 11:32. So why can't it accept the fact, as expressed in the second part of that same passage in which the same "all" word is used, that God will also have mercy (compassion) on everyone? Well, Christianity can't accept God's great plan because it has allowed itself to be trapped in law wherein wrath (hell and all its torment) for breaking that law must be present.

But God is love, and He will give everyone an ample chance to be saved and to taste of His mercy apart from law, even if He has to raise them from the dead. And that includes you, me, and all of our friends, loved ones, and even complete strangers who have lived, now live, and will ever live. In other words, there is actually great hope for everyone, both living and dead, in God's great plan of salvation.


J. Richard Parker
Glen Weber said…
Thanks Ted for pointing out what a joy it must have been for the Father to adopt the human family. I've certainly looked at the Father through new eyes over the past few months, but still need reminders that He is a HAPPY and JOYFUL God! When our sons were born, the first was two weeks overdue and the second was three weeks overdue. The anticipation of the baby not coming, made the joy of the birth that much more exciting. And of course, you and I both know what anticipation and joy there is in waiting for the birth of a grandchild! The Father must have experienced even greater anticipation (and sorrow) while waiting for the completion of the work of Jesus and even greater joy than we do when "It was finished", and He still experiences great joy when another person opens their heart to His love. No wonder the angels shout for joy when a sinner turns to repentance!! They are celebrating with the Trinity!!
I want only to add my "Amen" to all that has been written and confirmed here by you brothers! I agree with you and share in Jesus' ongoing joy in the Spirit at His marvelous plan and pulling off of our Adoption!

I have finally read "The Shack", as Lee Berger suggested and WOW!!! Right on!!! Good Gravy!! Confirming all we are learning, yet again, from another surprising source (a "nobody" writing a novel of fiction to His kids of the Truth about the Triune God!! Isn't God hilarious?!) He is determined not to let us out of the joy of knowing this Truth about ourselves in Jesus, even though it is embarrassing and makes our heads spin and hurt at first! Ha-Ha!! Hang in there Brothers! We are on Life's THRILL ride! :-)

It has been good and worth it to die all the deaths we have had to experience theologically and denominationally, recently, in order to see ourselves and the world more accurately in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ! Meaning, Jesus, in His Person IS the Resurrection (as Richard is especially pointing out), and everything has already risen in Him!!

Merry Christmas to You All!!!
Ted Johnston said…
Here is a sermon I've prepared for Christmas concerning our adoption. Thanks to other bloggers for the illustrations.

Enjoy, and Merry Christmas,

Hear Isaiah the prophet (Isa 7:14): Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son and shall call his name Immanuel.

Christmas—an astounding message: Immanuel—God with us!

But hasn’t God always been with us? Yes, as our Creator, he has always sustained us—in him all humanity has always lived and moved and had its being.

But with Christmas, God is with us in a new way:

John 1:14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Through the incarnation, God in the person of Jesus adds our humanity to his divinity. What we are, he becomes. But why?

John 1:12 To all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God…

The amazing cosmic story behind the earth-bound Christmas story is God’s mind-blowing plan to make us his children. It has been his plan before time began. Notice:

Eph. 1:3-6 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will…

Astounding! God’s pleasure and will is our adoption! And note that this adoption—this making of us his children--is THROUGH CHRIST & IN CHRIST.

And so, let me ask, when was the plan accomplished and how?

Well in one sense it was accomplished from the very beginning. Before there was a creation, it was determined in the inner counsels of the triune God to have children.

And if God wills it; it’s predestined - as good as done!

But then the plan unfolded in space and time. God became Creator — he created space and time — a womb, if you will, to accomplish his predetermined purpose of adoption.

And he molded and fashioned this womb and placed within it the crowning achievement of his creation - humankind. Not yet perfected, not yet fully his children. But on their way.

But then we sinned — in Adam we turned from fellowship with God in the fall. But did the plan then change? No. It remained—though now to the plan of incarnation was added the plan of redemption—the Atonement.

Think of this: For us to become God’s children, God's plan was always incarnation — to stoop down to become one of us in order to lift us up to himself.

But now to incarnation is added the Atonement. God in the flesh would suffer and die for us in order to free us from the sin and death we brought upon ourselves.

Nothing in heaven or on earth — our alienation and sin included - could thwart the Father’s plan for our adoption.

Remember Star Trek the Next Generation with Captain Luc Picard? Faced with a problem, Picard would consult his officers and upon reaching a consensus solution, would turn to his first officer Riker and say: “Number One, make it so!”

When faced with our rebellion against him in Adam, God the Father turned to God the Son —his number one — and said,“The plan for adoption is still on — Number One, do whatever is necessary — MAKE IT SO!”

And so it was, and so it is. And that brings us historically to the first Christmas: The incarnation — the birth of the second person of the Trinity - the eternal Son of God, in human flesh.

God become man. Helpless—just like us. Born into our condition: poverty, weakness, vulnerability, pain, suffering and sin.

Everything we are he became. And lived. For us and with us.

Who is this baby laying in the manger on Christmas morning? Well, Scripture identifies him as the second Adam. This Immanuel—this God in the flesh, is the representative and substitute for all humankind.

He became one of us to live for us, to suffer for us, to bear the full weight of our depravity and alienation from God, to die our death, and then to rise with us victorious over sin and death to a new, glorified, perfected life.

This ultimate destiny of humankind as God’s adopted and now glorified children is in Paul’s view when he writes in Eph. 2:4-7: "Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions-it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus."

Why has God the Father purposed to adopt humankind? Because of his great love for us! You see,love is a verb, not a mere feeling. It is always seeking someone to share love and life with.

The triune God — one in three and three in one — sought others to share the joy and love of their shared life. Share it not at a distance, but intimately — bringing us into the INNER CIRCLE of his love and life.

Remember the movie Meet the Parents? Robert DeNiro plays ex CIA agent, Jack Byrnes, who keeps a watchful eye on Greg Fokker (played by Ben Stiller), who is courting Jack’s daughter, Pam. Add in Mrs. Byrnes who attempts to mediate, and Pam’s old boyfriend Kevin, and the dysfunctional family portrait is in place.

Jack likes to keep his family and friends close, within what he calls his ‘circle of trust.’ And so he interrogates Greg to document what he sees as Greg’s lack of honesty, fidelity and loyalty to the Byrne family.

Jack’s conclusion for Greg? “Buddy, you’re out of the circle. And you’ll have to work very hard to get in.”

Well the good news for you is that because of Jesus, you are inside God’s circle! Jesus, who is now fully God and fully glorified, representative man, is seated with God in that circle — in heaven. All humanity is there with him, inside God’s circle of trust, fellowship and love.

Brethren, here is what this means:
• You are loved by God.
• You are even liked by God.
• God is not angry with you. Not with anyone.

How? Why? Because you are God’s child, through and in Jesus. Adopted by grace. Forever.

Welcome to the family!

And Christmas tells us how it all happened — it starts with God’s purpose and predestined plan in eternity past that unfolded historically in Jesus’ incarnation and birth.

Through this, Jesus in himself, unites God and man. And through his life, suffering, death, resurrection and ascension, Jesus brings humanity inside of the circle, the family, of God’s love and life.

Now believe it. Put your trust in Jesus who is your life. And tell someone about God’s love for them.

Merry Christmas!
Pastor Jonathan said…
Another good sermon, Ted!

A member of my congregation recently heard someone give your Advent "Who is Christ?" sermon in another WCG church and he said it was great.
Whooooooaaa....AND Good Gravy Ted!! The Gospel is SCREAMIN' out of this sermon!!! I never get tired of it! In fact, I am ravenous for more!! Merry Christmas indeed!

Keep it' comin' and going out from the rooftops!!! :-)

Thom Friedrich said…
I decided to give "The Shack" as a Christmas gift to the members of my congregation as well as the guests at our Christmas Eve service. I believe this book is a great step (leap) forward in opening up our eyes to the enormity and revealing nature of God's love for us all. William Young blows apart the traditional grey-bearded image of the untouchable God and presents Him as He truly is - far more complex than we can imagine, yet totally accessible in all His greatness!

Advent blessings to all!