As we stand in the glow of Christmas, Paul’s words reminds us that we need to think differently about who we really are.
It seemed like the big Christmas gift to give this year was DNA testing from websites like Ancestry and 23 and Me. I assume this gift is so popular because we know the holidays bring out certain family traits that might make you wonder where they came from.
Those who have had their DNA tested know more about their genetic make-up, uncover certain health traits, and some people, like our friend Becky, have found family members they didn’t know they had.
With all the great things genetic testing can produce, it can’t change your family, or the baggage each person brings with them. 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 Kathleen 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, Kathleen and Colleen have some things in common.
I cannot speak to them, because I am the last of 4, the baby of the family. If you are like me, your siblings often see you as the spoiled and getting away with everything. I’m not sure that is totally accurate. 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. Most corporations, governments and religious communities are set up in a way where each person has their own particular place of power and prestige.
In India, the cast system still divides their society into different social classes; the easiest way to rise up through the ranks is by death and reincarnation. We might be quick to think we are different. Even though our constitution states, “All men are created equal,” our country’s story would suggest otherwise.
The good news is (and I hope you remember this as you either gather with or runaway from family functions this holiday season) that no matter where you are born, in whatever order, or to whom your birthright belongs, we are all created equal in the eyes of God.
Through Christ, each one of us was given the same blessing of salvation, even if our lives seem radically different.
As we stand in the glow of Christmas, Paul’s words reminds us that we need to think differently about who we really are. To summarize Paul, “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” (Galatians 4:4-7)
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 points us towards our divine DNA.
Created in the image of God, we are born blessed by God. And thanks to our Christmas gift of salvation, we become a new creation. 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 from sin.
Through Christ we are reconnected to God. 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.
It might be hard to believe that little old you could be that special or important to God. But you are. To think that Jesus chose to leave all his heavenly glory, emptying himself and taking on the form of a slave just to give himself up for you and me.
As John the evangelist declares, “The Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory!”
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.
There was no reason for him to suffer the pain he went through. From getting sick to getting in arguments to having clueless disciples to the excruciating suffering he experienced on the cross, Jesus proved that God’s love for us would never abandon us to suffer alone.
Jesus entered our pain willingly because he wanted to go to the darkest depths of human suffering. He wanted 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 Godself with us in human form, we have not only seen God in Jesus Christ. But through him we have received new status, and become a new family. Nothing can separate us; not death, divorce, or differences of opinions that cause us to turn on one another. “Nothing,” says the Apostle Paul, “can separate us from the love that God gives through Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:38-39)
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.
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.
If God is in us, then God is also in others. And so a true test, then, of our DNA is seen in the way we seek out God in the heart of every human being. When we can see God 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 of love and grace with everyone around us. The gift we received at Christmas is the gift that keeps on giving.
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 each human being is the one who points us towards the Kingdom of God, our place of salvation and redemption.
Rice, Whitney. In the Beginning. From 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.”