Archive for December, 2013

December 29, 2013: The First Sunday after Christmas Day (Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Birmingham, Alabama)

Posted in Sermons with tags , , , , , on December 29, 2013 by montgomerybrandt

“…When the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”—Galatians 4.4-5[1]

In the Name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen!

During the past year and a half, I have been privileged to serve as the alumni advisor of the Lambda Chi Alpha chapter at the University of Montevallo.  As the chapter’s chief judicial officer, at several instances, I have had to advise its Executive Committee regarding the discipline of brothers unable to fulfill their responsibilities of membership as outlined in the Fraternity’s Constitution and Statutory Code.  Recently, I had a conversation with one of these disciplined brothers, part of which dealt with the reasons for the very existence of the Fraternity’s laws.  To my young brother, I said, “Laws are a system of regulation put in place geared toward the goal of maintaining the common good.  Therefore, Lambda Chi’s laws are in place in order that the very foundation and principles upon which the Fraternity was founded can be maintained.  They are in place to help guide us in being the best brothers that Lambda Chi calls us to be.”  My young brother said, “Brandt, I hear you.  But there are times in which the laws are too strict and don’t take into account a brother’s particular set of circumstances.  Therefore, if we say that we are a Brotherhood, we should be willing to sometimes overlook the laws so that the Brotherhood can be maintained, don’t you think?”

Unfortunately, due to the duties of my office, I was unable to subscribe to my young brother’s thought.  But I completely understood where he was coming from.  What he was saying was that the laws of Lambda Chi Alpha, though good in its intentions, failed in allowing for greater discretion in considering the circumstances that cause a brother to break the rules.  My young brother felt that, at times, the strictures were too impractical, which, in turn, did more to weaken the Brotherhood than strengthen it.  What he was calling for was less of a focus on the strictures of fraternal law and more of a focus on compassion for brothers at times of transgression.  What my young brother wanted was less law and more grace.

In today’s Epistle from Galatians, Paul states “that the law was our custodian until Christ came…”[2]  The word translated as “custodian” in the Revised Standard Version and “disciplinarian” in the New Revised Standard Version is the Greek word paidagogus.  In Paul’s time, the paidagogus was a household slave who led the young boy to school and supervised his conduct.  Though not himself a teacher, but rather more of a moral guide, the paidagogus was charged with protecting the youth from immoral influences.  It would be while under the paidagogus’s temporary care that the young boy’s freedom would be constrained and limited.[3]

So within the course of salvation history, Paul states that the Law was humanity’s paidagogus, put in place by God through Moses to be its guide for moral living.  In verse 19, he states that the Law “was added because of transgressions, till the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made…”[4] Although the Law was given as a measure in which we might better love God and our neighbor, for, as Paul says, “…Love is the fulfilling of the law,”[5] humanity’s transgressions and the brokenness of the human condition made fulfillment of the Law impossible to achieve.  The Law gave to humanity the ability to recognize its sin, but did not have the power to redeem it from sin.  But just as the paidagogus’s role within the young boy’s life was temporary, so does Paul describe the role of the Law within the life of the human creation.  The Law ruled over humanity for only a specified period of time—from that of Moses until the coming of Jesus Christ, the promised offspring.  With Christ came faith to the earth.  Now that faith has come, humanity’s limitations under its paidagogus, the Law, are no more, for the time of salvation is now.

From the Bidding Prayer of the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, we are admonished that it should “be…our care and delight to prepare ourselves to hear again the message of the angels; in heart and mind to go even unto Bethlehem and see this thing which has come to pass, and the Babe lying in a manger.”[6]  In this season of Christmastide, Paul’s words from Galatians are, again, a reminder to us that Jesus, the Incarnate Word of God, has restored the dignity of the human creation and sets us free from the shackles of sin and death.  Today, we are reminded that the days of our confinement under the Law and of judgment are over.  No longer is our relationship with God distorted.  No longer does sin have dominion over us.  No longer do we have anything to fear.  The time of our salvation is now.  The time is now here in which Jesus, God’s only begotten Son, born of woman, born under the Law, redeems us from the constraints of the Law, restoring us, once again, to harmony with God the Father in Heaven.  “From his fullness we have all received grace upon grace; as the Law was given through Moses, so grace and truth came into being through Jesus Christ.”[7]

How fortunate we are that in Christ’s Incarnation we see God’s promise of action in, revelation to, and redemption of the world come to fruition.  In order for humanity to be saved and our minds fixed back upon Him, God becoming human was a necessary occurrence.  By becoming human, Jesus is, for us, the visible face of an invisible God.  He allows us the opportunity to know God in a way that was previously impossible.  The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.[8]  And by the offering of Himself as a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice on the cross at Calvary, the Incarnated Christ makes Himself known to us as the Liberator who frees us from the bondage of sin.  The Incarnation has freed us from the bondage of the Law and bestowed to us the gift of grace, freeing us to live unto God in the faith of Jesus Christ.

The Incarnation of Christ is, without a doubt, one of the three most significant events throughout all of human history (the other two being the Crucifixion and the Resurrection).  Through the Incarnation, God has delivered us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.[9]  No longer are we confined under the Law.  Now that faith has come, we are no longer under a custodian.[10]  Through the newborn Jesus we will be granted forgiveness of our sins and be ransomed, healed, and restored people forever.

Alleluia!  Unto us a child is born: O come, let us adore Him.  Alleluia!


[1] Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations contained herein are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Old Testament Section, Copyright 1952; New Testament Section, First Edition, Copyright 1946; Second Edition © 1971 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

[2] Galatians 3.24

[3] Matera, Frank J.  Galatians (Collegeville, Minnesota: Liturgical Press, 2007), 136, 139.

[4] Galatians 3.19

[5] Romans 13.10

[6] From the Bidding Prayer of A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, held at the Chapel of King’s College at Cambridge University on December 24, 2013.

[7] John 1.18 (Common English Bible)

[8] John 1.14

[9] Colossians 1.13-14

[10] Galatians 3.25 (Common English Bible)