Christmas in July is one of those made-up holidays that seems to be growing in popularity these days. Its origins date back to a 1933 girls camp in North Carolina, but now it has become an excellent reason for shopping centers, strip malls, and the online retail giant, Amazon, to have mid-summer sales. Even the White House is planning a Christmas in July event.
For the last few years at our church, we have celebrated Christmas in July on the last Sunday of the month. Everyone seems to have enjoyed the wonderful worship, festive fellowship, and of course, the Christmas cookies. (We also try to have a canned food drive for the local food pantry.)
Additionally, this year, we find ourselves smack dab in the middle of the book of Galatians in our Adult Bible Class. Just in time for Christmas. Why do I say that? Because when you open up your Bible to Galatians 4, what you find is the Apostle Paul’s celebration of Christmas.
Now, of course, Christmas as a festival came much later for the early church. Easter was the first great festival of the church accompanied by the first Christian creed, “Christ is Risen,” which was soon followed by “Jesus is Lord.” Only later did the early believers begin wondering about the details surrounding Jesus’ birth. Of utmost significance to them was the suffering, death, resurrection, and ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ – as it still should be for us today.
But Christmas is still wonderful and full of wonder. That’s why the Apostle Paul gives us this radiant passage in Galatians 4 to illuminate us with the Christmas Gospel. “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying ‘Abba Father!’ So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God” (vv. 4-7).
Here, we read the mystery and majesty of the incarnation of the Son of God wrapped up into a single package.
We don’t get much Christmas in the Epistles. There is Philippians 2 where Jesus is “born in the image of men.” and Colossians 1 and 2, where in Him “the fullness of God dwells bodily.” But there isn’t much else. And aside from Luke 2, there isn’t much in the Gospels either. Half a chapter in Matthew 1 and that’s about it. But in the Galatians passage, Paul gives us the whole enchilada in just four, short verses. Here, we read the mystery and majesty of the incarnation of the Son of God wrapped up into a single package. And guess what? It’s got your name on it! It is for you – all for you.
“In the fullness of time”: What a captivating phrase, and one that has always been fascinating to me. In his popular, three-part work by the same name, Paul Maier describes the phrase as when the Almighty God, as the executive director and producer of the entire cosmos, orchestrated everything just so that when the time was right, He sent forth His own Son, to be born of a virgin, to live a perfect life, die a sacrificial death, and rise victoriously from the grave for us and for all.
Talk about mind-blowing. That’s the kind of thing that can keep you up at night pondering all of the perplexities and intricacies therein. But fortunately for us (and for everyone else), we’re not in charge of ruling the universe. Our Three-in-One God has that under control, thank you very much. And because the Son was born under the law to redeem those under the law, we can now have peace with God the Father through our Lord Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Him, we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Rom. 5:1-2).
We have peace and joy because we are now sons and daughters of God who can call out to Him, “Abba, Father!” No longer slaves, but sons, and if sons, then heirs of heaven.
All that’s left for us to do is the same thing we do when receiving a Christmas present. Smile and say thank you. Or, as Martin Luther put it, thank, praise, serve, and obey - this is most certainly true.