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.