The reading guide likes us to finish in Galatians 3 for the last three days leading up to Christmas. So here we are with Paul ripping into the Galatians.
1. Stupid Galatians! Who tricked you? It was before your very eyes Messiah Jesus has been publicly crucified.
2. There is only one thing I want to learn from you; did you receive the Spirit from works of the law or by hearing then believing?
3. You are truly tricked to begin in the Spirit and now finish in the flesh.
4. Why did you suffer so much for nothing? If it was for nothing.
5. So come now, does the one who supplies you with the Spirit and wonder working power do so by works of the law or by hearing then believing,
6. just like Abram who ‘believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness.’
7. Know then, those who believe are the children of Abram.
8. The scriptures predicted the Gentiles would be made right by believing when God gave the gospel beforehand to Abram, that ‘all the Gentiles will be blessed in you.’
9. So now those who believe are blessed with the faith of Abram.
10. Those who count on the works of the law are under a curse because it is written, ‘everyone is accursed who does not keep everything and do everything written in the Book of the Law.’
11. For it is clear no one is made right with God by the law, for, ‘those who are right will live by belief.’
12. The law is not kept out of belief, therefore the one who has done them, ‘will live by them.’
13. The messiah redeemed us from the curse of the law. By becoming accursed for us, and so it is written, ‘accursed is everyone who has been hanged on a tree.’
14. So now the blessing of Abram stretched to the Gentiles in Messiah Jesus, and thereby we might receive the promised Spirit through belief.
There is way – way – way – way too much going on in Galatians 3 for a full discussion here. Therefore, I’d like to set this reading in the context of Advent. Paul’s great innovation, as far as I am concerned, is to bypass Moses and go straight to Abraham. Yes, Jesus fulfilled the law by hanging on the tree, but his ultimate purpose was to fulfill the promise to Abram that all nations would be blessed. Moses and his laws were just a pesky little fly to be swatted away on the road to global impact.
The birth of Jesus, and indeed the life and ministry of Messiah Jesus, is a blessing to the world and we can hear the nations proclaim it all over the place. His praises are being sung this day in stores where people are shopping, on radio airwaves which usually worship self and sex, in decorations, lighted candles, and even on silly t-shirts. It seems like the whole world has stopped its madness and is focused on Jesus.
Even those who don’t believe in anything.
I am certain the blessing Paul has in mind which is fulfilled in Jesus is that of eternal life — full inclusion into the family of God. But we limit, I think, if we make the blessing of Jesus only about salvation, as if that is all. Is it not possible, as time has marched on, that one of the blessings to the nations which has emerged from Jesus is Christmas itself? The ideas of peace, charity, and love are uniquely present this time of year. What a gift! And all because of Jesus. The world would be worse if it didn’t have Christmas.
Yes, it is abused. Yes it is commercialized. Yes it is sometimes simplistic. But that doesn’t negate the blessing to the nations of a special time of year called Christmas when the whole world contemplates the Messiah in Manger. Christmas is not a curse. It is a blessing. ‘All the gentiles will be blessed in you’ is what the scriptures say. Let’s treat it accordingly.