One of the wonders of the Christmas story is the detail Scripture provides. It’s tempting to limit the scope of God’s plan, reducing it to nativity plays or tidy scenes on greeting cards, but we should never overlook the bigger picture of what He was doing in the world at that time. The apostle Paul sums it up in one verse: “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself” (2 Corinthians 5:19). Let’s step back and examine that first Christmas from God’s perspective.
How did He bring it all together to accomplish His divine purpose? Take a look at Galatians 4:4-7: “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.”
“But when the fullness of time came.” We might easily pass over this phrase, which feels abstract and difficult to grasp. But it’s important because it signifies that there were key events and much preparation behind the exact timing of Jesus’ birth.
Some people think that God is up in heaven watching and reacting as human history unfolds, but that notion is contrary to Scripture. Psalm 103:19 says, “The Lord has established His throne in the heavens, and His sovereignty rules over all.” Nothing surprises Him or is out of His control. In fact, before the heavens and earth were created, God’s plan to reconcile humanity was already in place (1 Peter 1:19-20).
Before the heavens and earth were created, God’s plan to reconcile humanity was already in place.
The Scriptures chronicle the working of God’s hand as He sovereignly brings events into alignment with His will. Genesis 3 explains that reconciliation with God is needed because the entire human race has been corrupted by Adam and Eve’s sin. Yet immediately after confronting them, the Lord promised to bring deliverance through the seed of a woman (Gen. 3:15). Then He chose Abraham as the ancestor of the One through whom He would bless the entire world (Gen. 12:1-3). From among Israel’s 12 sons, He chose a ruler to come from the tribe of Judah (Gen. 49:10). Centuries later, God selected David to be the one through whom a King would arise, whose kingdom would never end (2 Samuel 7:16). As the time of Christ’s coming drew near, the Lord used a Roman emperor named Caesar Augustus to send Joseph and Mary from Nazareth to Bethlehem to fulfill His prophecy that the King would come from this small town (Micah 5:2). Then, Jesus arrived in the fullness of time.
“God sent forth His Son, born of a woman.” From an earthly perspective, Jesus’ birth seemed ordinary, but in reality He was sent from God. He had no earthly father but was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of a virgin. Mary was told by an angel that her baby would be called “the Son of the Most High” and would rule on the throne of David forever (Luke 1:32-33). Although Jesus was truly God, He was also truly human. That’s why Isaiah describes this event as both the birth of a child and the giving of a son (Luke 9:6).
Although Jesus was truly God, He was also truly human.
The virgin birth was essential for the incarnation. Jesus was the promised “seed of the woman” who would crush Satan’s head and reconcile mankind to God (Gen. 3:15). This victory required the Son of God to be fully human while at the same time having no sin nature, and then to be offered up as a sacrifice for the sins of the world.
“Born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law.” What does it mean to be “born under the Law”? Although this phrase describes the Jewish people, who as a nation were under obligation to obey the Law of Moses, it can also be applied to all of us because we all fall short and are under God’s condemnation.
Yet Jesus perfectly obeyed the law of God in word, thought, and deed. Thus having shown full obedience to His Father by living a perfect life, He was able to become the spotless Lamb of God—the one who could bear the sins of mankind. And in so doing, He was able to redeem those who believe in Him and trust in the sacrifice He made on their behalf.
“That we might receive the adoption as sons.” This is the glorious reality for everyone who has been redeemed by Jesus Christ: We become children of God and members of His family. Through salvation, we who “were by nature children of wrath” have become the beloved children of God (Eph. 2:3) and are placed under His divine protection and provision.
Adoption gives us a new name and identity in Christ, a relationship with God the Father, a new companion in the Holy Spirit, and a family of brothers and sisters in the church. As a result, we are now called to live a new way—to walk as children of Light, learn what is pleasing to God, and abstain from the deeds of darkness He hates (Eph. 5:8-11). Although we may stumble along the way, we never have to fear that we’ll be thrown out of the family. Our heavenly Father may discipline us, but He will never revoke our adoption.
Although we may stumble along the way, we never have to fear that we’ll be thrown out of the family.
But the plan isn’t completed yet. One day Jesus will come again at God’s ordained time for His return. Then He will “transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory” (Phil. 3:21) and take us home to the Father’s house (John 14:3). This is when we, along with all our brothers and sisters in Christ, will enter into the fullness of our adoption and receive our imperishable, undefiled, and unfading inheritance that has been reserved for us in heaven (1 Peter 1:4). So this year, let’s look beyond the marvelous details of the Christmas story and anticipate our glorious destiny upon His return. What a celebration that will be.
Have you ever tried to plan a big event? If so, you understand how complicated it can be. Every step needs to be completed in a precise way, by specific people, at the right time. Now consider the details and timing with which God brought His Son into the world. It boggles the mind, doesn’t it? Yet God in His sovereignty and omniscience orchestrated His plan perfectly, without any confusion or worry.
Could you possibly doubt that God is doing the same in your life? As you look back, can you trace His hand guiding, protecting, and providing for you? Think about the events that led to your salvation. What situation did He use to open your eyes? Did the Lord place certain people in the right place at just the right time to help you understand how to be saved? Since God did so much to bring you to salvation, won’t you trust Him to lead you the rest of the way?
If you are an adopted child of God, you are in an enviable position—even if your circumstances tempt you to believe otherwise. When life gets difficult and painful, remember that you aren’t fully home yet. A glorious future awaits!
Heavenly Father, thank You for sending Your Son to be my Savior and for adopting me as Your child. Teach me to live in a manner worthy of my new identity so that I may bring honor to Your name. Help me to fix my hope completely on the grace that is mine when Christ returns rather than on my own expectations for this life. Amen.
- Romans 5:6-10
- Romans 8:18-23
- 1 Corinthians 15:49-58
- 1 Peter 1:13-16
- 1 John 5:1-3
Living in the reality of our adoption as God’s children can be challenging because our focus and affections are easily drawn to earthly things. When that happens, we sometimes forget our Father’s loving care for us and lose sight of His glorious promises.
What can you do to begin living according to your identity as a child of God?
Read Ephesians 1:1-14 and meditate on all that is yours as His adopted child.
Evaluate whether your life is a reflection of your new identity as God’s child. What do you need to change in order to live in a way that honors Him?
Read God’s Word, looking for details about your glorious heavenly future, and let it motivate you to live for eternity rather than for the things of this world.
Illustration by Simon Pemberton