Here’s a Christmas verse you don’t hear everyday. “Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait with eager anticipation for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” (Romans 8:23) It doesn’t just jump out at you…Christmas! Hark the Herald! Joy to the World! But take my word for it, it is a Christmas verse.
For one thing it is right there in a conversation about the pangs of childbirth and groaning and certainly brings to mind the young Mary with sweat on her brow and nervous Joseph holding her hand too hard, not sure what to do. That part of the verse always paints a picture for me of blood on the straw and a crying newborn shivering in the cool early morning air of
But the Romans passage doesn’t call me to Christmas because of the new birth reference nearly as much as it does with it words of anticipation, eagerness, hope, waiting. The next verse says, “In this hope we were saved.” What hope? The hope that the meaning of this new birth is far deeper, far more profound than meets the eye.
Right now Doris and I are eagerly waiting in our home for Jon-Mical and Jakson to come over on this Christmas morning. (Sorry, Josh, Jennifer, and Jacob…we are waiting for you too.) The presents are wrapped under the tree. The Christmas brunch is in the oven. The battery is charged on the camera and we are ready for their coming. And we wait with eager anticipation, not just because we will be the coolest grandparents in the world when they see their gifts, (Well, okay, that’s part of it.) but because the coming of these children means something deeper.
Our grandkids walk through the door and it means there is hope. We have a chance to love them and influence them and speak into another generation. Someday Jon-Mical will be waiting for his grandson to come over, long after I am gone, and hopefully he will be trying to teach some of the same things that he learned from his PoppyC, and from his dad. That God is good. That the only life worth living is one dedicated to the Creator and all of His creation. That no matter the economical or ecological situation, we know that all things work together for good. That the Baby in the Manger is the King on the Throne and He is large and in charge. That this is not all there is and even these feeble, fragile bodies of ours will be redeemed one day because of the coming of the Messiah.
Well that is a Christmas message with punch. Do they get all of that when they unwrap a Hot Wheels and a laughing Elmo? I doubt it. But there is a spark of that. There is the beginning of understanding about waiting, and eagerness, and hope. There is the message that hope (in PoppyC or in the King of Kings) does not disappoint us.
Now here’s the deal. Paul says that “we who have the firstfruits of the Spirit”have also this hope. God has planted deep down inside us somewhere, when we first started singing Away In A Manger or Silent Night, the growing anticipation of something bigger and better that a Nativity Scene once a year and a few carols for three Sundays in December. Even Jon-Mical and Jakson have, I believe, a God given sense that this thing is bigger than what they see. It is at least about love and joy and family. And that will grow to, well, to Peace On Earth and Good Will To Men. They are beginning to understand what I am beginning to understand, what all of creation is groaning for, the fulfillment of that hope that was born on that Christmas morning. My prayer for you and for us is that this Christmas season and in fact, this entire New Year, we will know the power of being the adopted sons and daughters of God and the joy of our redemption. We have that hope and that beats Hot Wheels any day.
(I was in the middle of writing this when I was called to the ER because Josh cut his hands putting together a toy for Jon-Mical. It's a little disjointed but I didn't want to wait until next Christmas to finish it. Merry Christmas and keep waiting for the redemption that is ours.)