Introduction: By the First Sunday after Christmas, by and large, our culture has completely finished with its observance of the holidays. As Christians, though, we realize that the celebration of our Savior’s birth goes on and on, and we remember that with a full twelve days of Christmas, a celebration that only ends then by transitioning to Epiphany, a further celebration of the incarnation.
In some parts of the world, there’s another custom that can help us celebrate the ongoing feast. December 26 is—or at least was—observed as Boxing Day. I understand that our English friends joke about Boxing Day as the day you box up all the Christmas decorations and put them back up in the attic. But actually, the tradition is that on Boxing Day, December 26, masters would present gifts to their servants. At least in this small way, the roles of master and servant were reversed, with the master rendering a sort of service to the servants.
In our Epistle this morning, we hear about the Master giving a gift to his servants that truly does reverse the traditional roles. The Master gives his Son so that the servants—slaves even—actually become sons, heirs, themselves. We might think of this First Sunday after Christmas as a spiritual Boxing Day. By the Master, God the Father, sending forth his Son, you are no longer a slave. Instead,
Christ Was Born to Deliver Us from Slavery for Sonship.
I. We were all once slaves.
A. Paul says immediately before our text that we were “enslaved to the elementary principles of the world” (4:3).
1. If you want to get elementary about things, here’s the way the world works: if you want something, you have to earn it. (Give examples: a paycheck, groceries, affection from another person.)
2. But if you can’t pay whatever it costs, you’ll always be a slave to trying.
3. If we had to cut our own deal with God, that’s the way it would be. We’d have to do or pay whatever it took to earn God’s favor and a ticket to paradise.
B. We were, in fact, under the principle of the Law and therefore slaves.
1. God’s Holy Law declares what we are to do and not do, the price of holiness.
2. But we can’t pay up, can’t fulfill the Law’s holy demands. (Give examples of sins that are common among your hearers.)
3. That left us, by nature, always trying, never achieving—slaves to the Law.
II. But Christ, God’s Son, came to redeem us from our slavery (vv 4–5).
A. He came in “the fullness of time.” (Elaborate from Textual Notes section.)
1. When God had prepared receptive communities throughout the Mediterranean.
2. When the temple had been rebuilt.
3. When the region shared a common language.
4. When Roman rule led to fulfillment of the messianic prophecies.
5. When the pax Romana facilitated the spread of the Gospel.
B. At the incarnation, God, the Master, sent the eternal Christ to reverse roles with us.
1. He was God, the Son, from all eternity.
2. But he was born of the Virgin Mary, becoming truly one of us.
3. And he was born under the Law, taking our place as a slave to keeping the Law.
C. For us, then, Christ rendered obedience to the Law.
1. He kept the Law perfectly, fulfilling what we had failed to do.
2. But he endured the curse of the Law anyway, taking our punishment upon himself.
3. He took this curse as the price necessary to redeem us (Gal 3:13).
III. Therefore, we now live as sons and heirs of God (Gal 4:5–7).
A. Christ’s reversing roles with us—taking our place under the Law, fulfilling it, and paying the price for our breaking it—has put us in his role, adopted as sons.
1. This adoption is given by way of Baptism (Gal 3:27–29).
2. This adoption is ours through faith in Christ (Gal 3:26).
3. This adoption is demonstrated by the gift of the Spirit.
B. So we have the full rights as sons.
1. The right to make requests of God.
a. We pray as sons, not as slaves.
b. We have the closest possible relationship to our God. As Jesus taught his disciples to call God “Father,” we have the privilege of calling him “Abba.”
c. The Holy Spirit even helps us to pray.
2. The right to an inheritance through God.
a. We have our share in the inheritance now—this privileged, forgiven relationship.
b. We look forward to an eternal inheritance.
Conclusion: For one day a year, Boxing Day makes a fine tradition—the master reversing roles with his servants. But our Christmas celebration isn’t one day a year, or two, or even twelve. Because Christ reversed roles with us, taking our place as slaves under the Law, we can celebrate every day as our spiritual Boxing Day. Amen.