Today is Christmas Adam — because it comes before Christmas Eve. Our reading focuses another character from the book of Genesis, though.
15. Brothers and sisters, let me speak to it in an everyday human way; it’s all very similar to a will that’s already probated, and no one can annul any of it or add a codicil.
16. The promise was made to Abram and his seed. It does not say ‘seeds, as though it were plural, but from one – your seed – who is Messiah.
17. I tell you this, a will already probated by God cannot be annulled by the coming of the law four hundred and thirty years later. The promise cannot be cancelled.
18. If the inheritance comes from the law, it is no longer by the promise, but God has bestowed the promise to Abram.
19. Why then the law? It was added because of transgressors until the promised seed would come. It was handed down by the angels, mediators.
20. The mediator was not one, but God is one.
21. Is the law then against the promise of God? Never! If the law that was given was able to bring life, then rightness really would come from the law.
22. For the scriptures locked everyone up under sin, so that the promise comes by belief in Jesus as Messiah to those who are believing.
I have argued, vehemently, that The Lord of the Rings movies, the original three, are Christmas movies. It just feels Christmassy to me — Gandalf’s beard, the snow, elves, elves giving gifts, wandering stars, and trees. Somewhere I should make a definitive list of the reasons why, but that is not for now. For now, it just feels that way to me because of the themes and imagery.
In the same way, these lines pulled from Galatians about the law feel Christmassy as well because of the themes and imagery, namely that of a promised child whose entry is mediated by angels, thus combining the promise to Abram and the law. The birth of Jesus is the fulfillment of the promise to Abram. Even the language of codicil and will reminds us of the legal restrictions of Joseph having to register under the edict of the Emperor. It as all so legal.
Let me also work another angle with this text. It is a little graphic, but the Bible is just that way sometimes. The word for seed in the language of the New Testament is spermati, the root for sperm. Graphic indeed. Abram was promised seed through his own loins, not that of an adopted heir. His misunderstanding of this would lead to tragedy later, but the promise was still valid, nonetheless. In a twist, though, we believe and the Bible teaches that Jesus was born without such seed. Again, graphic, I know but important. Mary was the offspring of Abram that mattered, and she brings the promise of Abram but through the female side, as a kind of re-imaging of Sarah. Through her the promised child would come, through her, the virgin.
Now, as to the misunderstanding Abram had with Hagar, O reader of blogs, understand how even the most faithful can be misguided and led astray by their own insecurities, fears, doubts, and justifications. We do this in our walk with Jesus all the time. We misunderstand what is so clear because the sin in our lives weakens and blocks our ability to perceive.
At Christmas, this is amplified even more by family turmoil, greed, or self-indulgence.