Galatians 4:1-7 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
My point is this: heirs, as long as they are minors, are no better than slaves, though they are the owners of all the property; 2 but they remain under guardians and trustees until the date set by the father. 3 So with us; while we were minors, we were enslaved to the elemental spirits of the world. 4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. 6 And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.
A few weeks ago we hosted a family meal. At that family meal was a baby, about a year old, who was being cared for by a foster Mom. The baby was being cared for by this foster Mom because of issues in the baby’s “natural” family’s lives. However, the love for the baby from the foster Mom and all of us was real. The baby was doted on, held, rocked, fed and loved, because that’s who we are. She had done nothing to earn or deserve the love we showed, nor could she do anything to keep us from loving her. The love was a blessing, a grace, neither deserved or earned, for her and for us.
In this passage of Paul’s from his letter to the Galatians, Paul is talking belonging. Every human has the need to belong to someone, to God, to other people, to something beyond ourselves. Paul’s statement says that God’s people used to find our belonging through the “Law,” or adherence to a set of beliefs and practices. Now, “in the fullness of time,” or at the right moment, God has now sent a Son, and our belonging to God is not based on the beliefs and practices, but in the physical embodiment of God in the person that was born of Mary, a baby whose birth we celebrate at Christmas. We don’t qualify for that love by being good. We don’t qualify for the love by being right in our beliefs and practices. It is who God was and is that makes it so.
Babies, like the one we had in our home, are great reminders of the love of God. Every child needs love, the unconditional kind, that is not based on merit, or looks, or qualifications. Because we see the love of God in Jesus Christ, we belong to the family of God, and all can cry, “Abba! Father!” because that’s who he is for us all.