This is an older post that you might find helpful as you prepare for this Christmas. It is an abbreviated text of my 2009 Christmas message I gave during our annual Christmas program.
Note: our entire Christmas program was written by our church’s worship leader. It follows the story of a girl named Emma who was given up for adoption at birth and her search for her birth dad. It takes place on the set of a community acting troupe performing a version of the play ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’ Also, this text has not been proofed for perfect grammar.
Pastors always feel a bit anxious when Christmas comes around for this reason. We wonder how can we bring a fresh take on the Christmas story. The program you are experiencing tonight gives us fresh lens through which we can see the Christmas story—through the lens of adoption.
Adoption is big in our culture. Sandra Bullock starred in the movie, The Blind Side that has as its theme adoption. A new ABC reality show called Find my Family, reunites families separated by adoption.
The bible often speaks about adoption. Of the three examples in the OT, the most tender one that pictures the love and grace of God when He adopts someone into His family is seen when King David adopted a crippled boy as his son. The NT mentions adoptions several times as well.
In the ancient Roman world where the Christian faith began, adoption was common and primarily for the parents sake unlike today when the purpose is for the benefit of the child. Then adoption occurred primarily to carry on the family’s names, pass on the inheritance, and have someone to take care of parents in old age. The common person understood the concept. The Apostle Paul writes about it here.
Rom. 8.15 So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.”
A Roman slave owner could adopt a slave. The result was that the slave was freed from the bondage of slavery and the fear of his master. Now, no longer a fearful slave, but a son. The Scripture I just read says that this new relationship was so intimate the term Abba was used, an endearing term for father, papa. You don’t call someone you are afraid of, papa.
This practice in Romans days parallels what happens when God adopts us. Because of sin we are alienated/separated from God (slavery to sin). When God adopts us he makes us his son or daughter, frees us from this bondage to sin and fear and addictions and we now have this new warm relationship with him so close we can approach Him as PaPa without fear. We then experience his love just like adopted children experience the love of their new parents.
Also, if I lived in that day and had no son I could adopt the son of in another family if they had two sons (and they gave permission). In doing so, I would release from that son any future debt he would be responsible for from that family. The adoption would wipe away any debt.
This practice illustrates spiritual adoption, God’s adoption of us. The bible says that sin puts us in debt to God and this debt carries with it eternal consequences—eternity apart from Him. Yet, when God adopts someone, the debt of sin and penalty of that sin is wiped clean, done away with. When God adopts us, he removes this debt of sin.
So just as a Roman through could free someone from the bondage of slavery and remove their debt through adoption, from a spiritual perspective, when God adopts us, he frees us from this slavery to our sin, fears, and addictions, removes the debt of sin that eternally separates us from Him, and gives us a new intimate relationship with Him, our PaPa.
So, how does God adopt someone? That’s where Christmas comes in.
I did some research on adoption and learned this. Those of you who have adopted already know this: it is expensive and time consuming—background checks, home visits by adoption agency, applications that must filled out and on and on.
Adoption is also one way. 100% the work, effort, and cost is born by the parents who want to adopt that child. The orphan does not earn adoption nor perform to get it or pay for the privilege of it. The power and the reason for adoption is all bound up in the heart of the parents to be.
Parents will go to literally the ends of the earth to adopt a child, pay tens of thousands of dollars, invest thousands of hours of effort so that they can adopt a child… for one reason: love. A parent wants to give away the love in their heart to a child.
That same reason has motivated God to make a way for us to be His child, only God’s love is so deep that it’s difficult to fathom what He did to make our adoption possible. The bible puts in this way.
Gal. 4.4 But when the right time came, (Roman world was like U.S., advanced civilization, but in moral crisis) God sent his Son, (Christmas-Jesus birth, God becoming a man) born of a woman (fully human, He knows what it’s like living with pain and hurt and sorrow, he’s not aloof from it) subject to the law. 5 God sent him to buy freedom for us (remember that parents pay the full price, not the orphan) who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children.
One of the privileges of adoption is that the adopted child will eventually share in the inheritance as if he were related by blood. But for an inheritance to be put into effect, usually death has to occur.
A death, a payment had to happen in order for God to make spiritual adoption possible.
God took the initiative to graciously and lovingly seek out unworthy humanity (you and me) to offer to us the greatest gift possible—to become God’s child, to be adopted into His family, to be freed from the slavery, penalty, and debt of sin, to be free from our fears and our addictions, not on the basis our merit (remember an orphan doesn’t earn adoption but must simply receive it), but on the basis of what God has done out of his love for us. We must receive God’s offer to become His child.
Just as a parent goes to great lengths to adopt a child, God went to the unfathomable length of sending his son Jesus to earth (Christmas) to go die on a cross to pay for our sins (good Friday) and then to be raised from the dead to give us life eternal (Easter).
God did that so that we might be his child, have our sins forgiven, and share in this wonder spiritual inheritance-a bounty of blessings in this life and the next.
God made us to want this relationship with Him. Pascal, one of the most brilliant scientists who ever lived and a follower of Jesus said that there is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of all of us.
Emma’s search for her father reflects the desire in all of us to belong, have a family that accepts us, a father who loves us, a place of safety, security … a place our hearts can call home.
Jesus makes this possible.
At Christmas, at least for a moment, the word tunes to the spiritual. For many people at Christmas hearts and souls warm up to God a bit.
I hope that your heart will open up tonight and that you will consider becoming a child of God, being adopted into His family because of what Jesus did.