A few weeks ago, I heard a pastor who talked about what he called the “best Christmas passage never read at Christmas”. This passage came from the Bible, in the book of Galatians, chapter 4:
“But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’ So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.” (Galatians 4:4-7)
Without getting deep into Jewish history, the writer of this book (the Apostle Paul) is basically saying that God sent his son (Jesus) to Earth in order to save people from something they could not save themselves from (the consequences of living an immoral life). It also draws a personal connection between God and the people he saved, as those people are described as a “son” and an “heir”.
So far, this description probably seems insignificant – something you have heard over and over again. But there is another passage from the Bible that places the Galatians one in proper perspective. This passage is Isaiah 40:12-17 (color emphasis mine):
Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand,
or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens?
Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket,
or weighed the mountains on the scales
and the hills in a balance?
Who can fathom the Spirit of the Lord,
or instruct the Lord as his counselor?
Whom did the Lord consult to enlighten him,
and who taught him the right way?
Who was it that taught him knowledge,
or showed him the path of understanding?
Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket;
they are regarded as dust on the scales;
he weighs the islands as though they were fine dust.
Lebanon is not sufficient for altar fires,
nor its animals enough for burnt offerings.
Before him all the nations are as nothing;
they are regarded by him as worthless
and less than nothing.”
Through a series of rhetorical questions, the author of this passage places perspective on the size, moral character, and significance of God. The blue text refers to size, green refers to moral character, and orange refers to significance.
The point of this passage is not to say that God actually measures the heavens (or universe) using his hand. The point seems to be more about comparing God to real objects so that people reading this passage at that time could better understand the expansiveness, goodness, and importance of God. God is even more expansive than the Universe. He is perfect, and does not need moral instruction. And he is more important than entire nations.
Now consider all of that, and look back to the Galatians passage. God, the big, perfect, important being referred to in the Isaiah passage, sends his son in the form of a tiny, dependent baby. All this for the purpose of saving people who are relatively small, definitely imperfect, and not nearly as significant as God.
This action of God sending his son was truly a gift. People did not deserve or earn the right to the gift. Also, the gift required substantial sacrifice, as the giver is easily the most important thing in existence, and became something much less than that.
This Galatians passage helps us to understand the significance of the phrase “God sent his son”. And that insight is the reason why this passage is the best Christmas passage never (or at least rarely) read at Christmas.