Do you remember the Brady Bunch? Where Mike Brady, with his three sons, marries Carol with her three daughters? It’s all very sweet.
But it’s just FICTION. Pretend! Because real life is never quite that easy, is it? I mean, they have their ups and downs in the TV show – Marsha doesn’t know what to wear to the formal, Jan gets glasses or braces, Peter tries to go on a date with two s at the same time. That sort of thing.
But you get the overwhelming impression if you watch it, that blending a family like that is EASY. And FUN.
But real life’s not like that. Blended families are HARD WORK! Bringing together TWO FAMILIES with TWO HISTORIES, with TWO SETS OF EXPECTATIONS. Two families with their own ways of doing things, their own family traditions, their own family rules. It’s TOUGH!
In the TV version, Mike Brady just says, YOU DON’T DO THAT ANY MORE. You’re a BRADY NOW. And the kids say, Gee, you’re right. And that’s that.
But in real life it’s much harder. There’s the misunderstandings, the tantrums, the shouting and fighting, the disappointments. There’s the tension, and the coldness.
And, hopefully, as time goes by, there’s a gradual softening, and understanding, and respect, and eventually LOVE.
But it’s not easy.
And we’ve seen something of the same sort of thing happening ON A MUCH BIGGER SCALE over the last of weeks ON THE STREETS OF SYDNEY. Two different groups clashing. Street riots on the basis of race, or religion. Over territory.
Aussie and Lebanese. Surfies and Westies. From Cronulla to Castle Hill with Auburn, Maroubra, Brighton, and Ryde in between.
Sydney’s one of the most ethnically-diverse cities in the world. Hundreds of different nationalities existing side-by-side. That’s certainly the case in Blacktown. One HUGE blended family. With problems hundreds of times harder to solve than in a normal blended family.
And, for the MOST part, we do it peacefully. With tolerance, and acceptance, and understanding and patience.
At least ON THE SURFACE. I’m sure there’s hostility and resentment UNDERNEATH. My guess is it’s ALWAYS been that way. And it’s just NOW bubbling to the surface.
Wouldn’t it be great if there was a SOLUTION? A resolution that was LONG TERM. And REAL. Not just a band-aid. That brought REAL peace.
In Sydney, we’ve seen the NEW LEGISLATION. The Public relations exercises. Meetings between the Comancheros and the ‘Bra boys. The talkfests between the government, police, and various religious and community groups. The Police lock-downs. The riot police.
But I’m not sure any of it will change THE UNDERLYING ATTITUDES. It might control BEHAVIOUR, but won’t do anything about mind-sets.
We need A GENUINE SOLUTION.
The problem is/ it’s not really any different from any other time in history. The names and places have changed. But the problem’s the same.
A vicious cycle of misunderstanding and greed. Of revenge and hatred, hurting and being hurt.
Since Adam and Eve/ people have been at war with each other. Disagreements and fights over all sorts of things. One group of people against another. Nations or religions or football supporters.
And it’s ironic these events are happening within a of weeks of Christmas. Because it’s at CHRISTMAS that we remember the PERFECT GIFT. A gift from God himself. A gift he sent to DEAL with the mess we’ve made for ourselves.
It was the gift of his Son.
The angels said it well on the night Jesus was born. This is what they sang to the shepherds.
14 “Glory to God in the highest, AND ON EARTH PEACE TO MEN ON WHOM HIS FAVOR RESTS.”
PEACE. God sent Jesus to bring PEACE. Peace BETWEEN men. And peace between people and GOD.
And the passage we’ve just read talks about HOW THAT WORKS. Helps us to understand why Jesus was THE PERFECT GIFT.
You need a bit of background to make sense of what it’s saying. The guy who’s writing this is called PAUL. He’s a JEW. And he’s writing to a group of people in Galatia. Which is present-day TURKEY. So, they were NON-JEWS. The Jews called them GENTILES.
And Jews and Gentiles had a history MUCH longer than Aussies and Lebanese. Up until Jesus came, they had nothing to do with each other.
But now, these Galatians, and lots of Jews as well – like Paul. Had all become CHRISTIANS. They ALL trusted Jesus as the one who could rescue them from and sin. Who could restore their friendship with God.
And so, Paul says, in v26. There’s no more hostility. It’s A BLENDED FAMILY that actually WORKS. It’s printed there in your news-sheets.
26 You are ALL sons of God through FAITH IN CHRIST JESUS, 27 for ALL of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither JEW NOR GREEK, SLAVE NOR FREE, MALE NOR FEMALE, FOR YOU ARE ALL ONE IN CHRIST JESUS.
One big family/ made up of ALL SORTS OF PEOPLE.
And he goes on to explain how that happened. BEFORE, there were DIFFERENCES. The Jews had the law. The Gentiles DIDN’T. The Jews followed God. The Gentiles followed OTHER religions. False idols.
But either way, says Paul in Ch 4 v3. It was like SLAVERY.
when we were children, we were IN SLAVERY under the BASIC PRINCIPLES OF THE WORLD.
People disagree about exactly what these basic principles were. Is it spiritual forces, or false religions, or humanistic philosophy?
Whatever it is/ the idea of SLAVERY is clear. Mankind, without God, is STUCK. We can’t live up to the ideals we dream of. We can’t treat each other the way we want to be treated. To make society the way we’d like.
And beyond that. We can’t do anything about . And judgment. We’re destined for destruction.
We’re ENSLAVED. Stuck in a hole of false gods, and man-made religions and philosophies. Of law and condemnation. Of guilt and greed and frustration. Of evil and vengeance, hatred and hurting and blindness.
Mankind is just one big mob-riot that’s out of control.
Which would all be a terrible picture. Except Paul’s describing THE PAST. The people he’s writing to aren’t there anymore. “We WERE in slavery”. That’s what we USED TO BE.
But not any more. Look at how he continues. V4. BUT!
4 But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, 5 to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.
Here’s the GOOD NEWS. The good news of CHRISTMAS. When the time was RIPE. (FULL-Time for SLAVERY. Kick-off for FREEDOM).
God sent his PERFECT gift. Jesus. Fully God, yet born of a woman. So, fully human. Born into the same sort of slavery that all of us live under. But HE NEVER SINNED. Exposed to exactly the same temptations as us, but never GUILTY.
And so, he’s able to REDEEM those in slavery. To buy us back.
Let me explain how that works. In Paul’s day, if you had a debt greater than you could repay, you could enter into slavery to your debtor. And work for them until your debt was paid off.
But if you had a rich relative, or friend, they could come along, and PAY OFF YOUR DEBT. REDEEM you. Buy you back. And you’d be FREE AGAIN.
And that’s just what Jesus has done for US. Because of our sin – our rejection of God, and our insistence on living life OUR way – we deserved JUDGMENT. The guilty verdict had been brought in. And we were just waiting for the sentence to begin.
We were in debt to God for an amount we could never repay.
But God sent Jesus to take the punishment IN OUR PLACE. His satisfied the justice that God demanded for OUR SIN. He died the he DIDN’T deserve, so that we might have the life WE didn’t deserve.
IN other words, his life was the payment that redeemed us from slavery.
That’s the extent of the love God had for us – that he’d allow his SON to die, to win us back to himself. What a gift!
A few years ago there was a true story in an American paper about a man in New York City who was kidnapped. His kidnappers called his wife and asked for $100,000 ransom.
Over the course of a few phone calls, she bargained them down to $30,000. What a bargain hunter!
The story had a happy ending: the man returned home unharmed, the money was recovered, and the kidnappers were caught and sent to jail. But, don’t you wonder what happened when the man got home and found that his wife got him back FOR A DISCOUNT?
The journalist imagined what the negotiations must have been like: “$100,000 for that old guy? You’ve got to be crazy. Just look at him! Look at that gut! And he’s falling apart. You want $100,000 for that? You’ve got to be kidding. $30,000 is my top offer. Not a cent more.”
I can’t help feeling sorry for the poor husband. I’d like to think if I were in a similar situation, Caron would spare no expense to get me back. She wouldn’t haggle over the price. She wouldn’t say, ‘Well, let me think about it.’ I like to think that she’d say, ‘I’ll do ANYTHING for you.'”
And when it comes to God/ there was NOTHING he wouldn’t give/ to buy US back. He even gave up his OWN SON.
And look at the RESULTS of that.
to redeem those under law, that WE MIGHT RECEIVE THE FULL RIGHTS OF SONS.
It literally says “that we might receive ADOPTION AS SONS”.
God sent his ONLY son, so that he could ADOPT us as sons. To make us part of the family! That’s a PERFECT GIFT.
And Paul goes on to list some of the family BENEFITS. Some of the privileges. We’ve already seen that we’ve been REDEEMED from the law. And that we’ve been ADOPTED. But look at v6.
Because you are sons, God sent the SPIRIT of his Son into our HEARTS, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.”
First God sends his son into THE WORLD. Then/ he sends the SPIRIT of his son into OUR HEARTS. The Spirit of Jesus LIVES WITH US. He is our guarantee of adoption. Our adoption papers.
When we start to doubt whether we really ARE God’s children, the Holy Spirit CONFIRMS it. We can even call God – FATHER because of the Spirit. Or Abba – which is the Aramaic version of Daddy.
Adopted children often doubt whether their parents love them as much as children. But God gives us a 24 hour a day ASSURANCE of his love. We have the Holy Spirit with us ALWAYS.
Finally, another right of adoption is that we’re HEIRS of the family fortune. Look at it there in v7.
7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.
Our inheritance is A NEW LIFE. A NEW RELATIONSHIP.
And ultimately, it’s A NEW WORLD. One day, God will finally have enough of the mess we’ve made of THIS WORLD. And Jesus will return. The old world will be destroyed. And he’ll bring in A NEW CREATION. An eternal, and perfect world. Without sin or or pain. And it’s only for those in God’s FAMILY.
That’s our inheritance. It’s waiting for God’s children.
And it all comes because of God’s PERFECT GIFT. Jesus.
And, just like ANY gift. It doesn’t just come AUTOMATICALLY. We have to ACCEPT the gift.
But HOW can you accept God’s gift? Have a look back to the start of these verses. V26.
26 You are all sons of God …. THROUGH FAITH IN CHRIST JESUS, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
We accept God’s gift by trusting Jesus, that he’s God’s Son, and by trusting the work he did on our behalf.
And we SHOW that trust like THIS. All we need to do is ASK. A.S.K. Admit, Sorry, and King.
We need to ADMIT that we’ve ignored God. And lived by our own rules. That we’ve sinned.
Second, we need to say we’re SORRY. The Bible calls that REPENTANCE. That means turning around from living for ourselves, and begin to live for Jesus instead.
And that’s what the THIRD part is about. KING. To accept God’s gift, we must submit to Jesus as our King. Recognise that he has the right to rule our lives, and the world. We agree to live life by HIS command.
That’s what a Christian is. Someone who lives with Jesus as their King. Not that we always do that PERFECTLY. But that’s our intention. Our heart’s desire. To follow our King.
That’s something you can do RIGHT NOW. All you have to do is TELL God. Tell him those three things. That you ADMIT you’ve sinned against him. That you’re SORRY. And that from now on, Jesus will be YOUR KING.
You might like to pray this prayer in your own head. Make it your own.
“Dear God, heavenly FATHER, I ADMIT that I’m a sinful rebel against you. I’m SORRY for that. Thank you for Jesus who pays the price for my rebellion. I want to live with him as my KING. Please help me to do that, with the help of your HOLY SPIRIT. Amen
If you prayed that prayer, and MEANT it, then you’ve accepted God’s gift. And God’s promise to YOU is that he’s REDEEMED you, adopted you as one of his CHILDREN, given you his Spirit, and made you an HEIR.
And that means that you’re now PART OF THE FAMILY. You’ve got millions of brothers and sisters all over the world. Aussies and Lebanese. Surfie and Westie. Male and female. Slave and free. Jew and Gentile.
And while we might not always agree – like ANY family. It’s the beginning of REAL PEACE. Lasting peace. Peace with each other, and peace with God.
May the angels’ words be true THIS CHRISTMAS.
14 “Glory to God in the highest, AND ON EARTH … PEACE/ TO MEN ON WHOM HIS FAVOR RESTS.”