When I’m with my wife’s family I get a kick out of watching the pecking order at work. Whether you are from a healthy family or a broken family we all have our social position (or birth order) in the family that defines who we are.
For example, my wife is number 5 of 9 kids. She is often seen as the fulcrum that balances the family dynamic. If you are a middle child, then I image you have some things in common with her and our middle daughter.
I cannot speak to that, because I am the last of 4, the baby of the family. If you are like me, or Rev. Dawn, your siblings probably see you as the spoiled one who gets away with everything. That might not be totally accurate portrait. But I do think the last-born are our parent’s favorite because we’re their last chance of getting it right.
Hierarchical patterns are found throughout our society. They always have been. Most corporations, governments and religious communities are set up in a way where each person has their own particular place of power and prestige. Despite the fact our constitution states, “All men are created equal,” our country’s story would suggest otherwise.
The good news is no matter where you are born, in whatever order, or to whom your birthright belongs,…we really are all created equal in the eyes of God. Through Christ, God has blessed each one of us the same, even if our lives are radically different.
Read Galatians 4:4-7 below
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir through God. Galatians 4:4-7
On Christmas Eve, I asked how many nativity stories were in the gospels? If you were watching, you might recall I got many different answers. Rev. Dawn was correct to say there was only one birth story, which we read from Luke.
But I would argue there are two when we count the Magi visiting baby Jesus in Matthew’s gospel. John also gives us an esoteric account of Jesus’ birth. And if you want to know more about that you can read my Christmas Eve blog post, Between Light and Dark, from 2022.
Given our reading today, you can see that Paul also includes his own, albeit brief, story of Jesus’ birth, in his letter to the churches in Galatia. It is part of a larger argument that he’s making, comparing people who follow Jesus with orphans who are under the care of a conservatorship until they reach a particular age to inherit their father’s property. Paul isn’t talking about material wealth, but spiritual wealth that comes with sharing faith with Jesus.
He wrote, “God sent his Son, born of a woman, to redeem us and adopt us as his own children. As a child of God, you’re also an heir, with complete access to the inheritance.”
Some children inherit great financial wealth; others receive great debt. One might get their mother’s eyes, while the other inherits his grandfather’ high forehead. This is not the inheritance that Paul is talking about. He knows we’re all different and yet all the same. So, he points our attention towards our divine DNA.
Scripture is pretty clear that we are all created in the image of God (Gen 1:26-27). I take this to mean we are all born blessed by God. That blessing, which ties us all together is Christ, who didn’t just come to redeem the world, or to save us from something we did. Christ is not God’s clean-up plan, but God’s original plan for us. Christ is the way God created the world, including us.
Paul says it like this, “In Christ all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible…all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Col. 1:16-17).
No matter who our earthly ties are, we all belong to God because we all have Christ within us. The same DNA that is in the baby born in Bethlehem, is the same that has been given to you and me. Through this little baby, wrapped in swaddling cloth, every person in the world receives an equal portion of the same gifts and grace; the same love and forgiveness; the same salvation and redemption.
Through him we share not only a name, but a heart; one love, and one forgiveness of all we’ve done wrong. This DNA makes us part of a process much greater than our parents creating a biological exchange. No wonder the church calls this the Good News.
It might be hard to believe that little old you could be that special or important to God, let alone be made in the image of God. But you are. To think that Jesus chose to leave all his heavenly glory, emptying himself and taking on human flesh just to return us to our original state, our Divine goodness. His entire mission was to awaken us to our truth and reconnect humanity back to God.
As John the evangelist professed in the prologue of his birth story, “And the Word of God became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.”
Jesus took on our flesh and all the scars and awkwardness and pain that comes with it, to live among us so we would know the way. He showed us God’s glory so we could see who we are in God’s family.
More than that, Jesus didn’t just become human for a minute or an hour or a day and then go right back to heaven. He lived among us for thirty-three years, enduring the messiness, the heartbreak, the inconvenience, the joy, and the pain of human life. Jesus entered our pain willingly because he needed to go to the darkest depths of human suffering to make sure everyone sees themselves in God’s incarnate glory, full of grace and truth. In that glory we experience God’s love for us whether we deserve it or not.
Jesus continues to come to us into Anamesa, to meet us in those places we all find our self, some of us more than once. Rich or poor, black, brown, or white, male or female...the darkness of life does not discriminate. And neither does God’s Love that shines brightly through Christ, and through us.
Because God made the choice to share God’s self with us in human form, we have not only seen God in Jesus Christ. Through him we have received new status and become a new family. A family built upon the foundation of God’s eternal love.
As members of this family, we can claim the truth that we are loved unconditionally. “Nothing,” says Paul, “can separate us from the love that God gives through Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:38-39). Nothing - not death, divorce, or differences of opinions that cause us to turn on one another.
God’s love is for anyone who wants it. So too is God’s family ready to welcome any and all who want to be adopted.
As we linger in the Christmas spirit, and begin our journey unlocking the space between us, may we never lose sight of the truth that Jesus not only came to love on us but to teach us and send us out into Anamesa to love one another.
DNA testing might tell you of some impending health issue, or help you better understand why you have brown eyes while everyone in your clan has blue eyes.
But we don’t need to mail in our saliva to know who we belong to and from where we came. A true test, then, of our DNA is seen in the way we seek out God in the heart of every human being.
As children in this divine family, we are all created equal, and we are all loved equally. We need not only to recognize this in our own life (with its faults and failures) but also in the follies and foibles of others.
As Jesus showed us with his own life, the love God pours into us is the same love that must flow out of us into every wonderful or difficult space we find ourselves in. When we can see the Divine DNA in others, we can give freely and fearlessly of ourselves to others.
When we recognize and realize that the blood of Christ is mixed with the blood of everyone around us, then we can share the gift by loving God, loving others, and serving both.
As we move forward into a new year, let us not look back from which we came, but look ahead, to see the person right there in front of us for who they really are - brothers and sisters in God’s divine family tree.
adapted fromOur Divine DNA from December 31, 2017.
Rice, Whitney. In the Beginning. www.episcopaldigitalnetwork.com (12-30-17).
An ex-copywriter turned punk rock pastor and peacemaker who dedicates his life to making the world a better place for all humanity.
"that they all might be one" ~John 17:21
“Prius vita quam doctrina.”
~ St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)
* “Life is more important than doctrine.”