December 26, 2020 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Galatians 4:4-7 (NRSV)
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.
Feast on this second day of Christmas secure in the knowledge that you are a child of God. Help others feast on this Boxing Day, this feast of Stephen, secure in the knowledge that they too are children of God. All of us were under the law. And now we are under grace.
Today is the second day of Christmas. Did you know that? I’m sure you’re very familiar with the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” and may have even wondered what some of the strange lyrics meant. I’m not here to explain all the lyrics (there are many different theories), but I am here to affirm that the overall concept of the song is right on target.
Historically, Christians have celebrated Christmas beginning on Christmas Day and continuing right up through Epiphany, January 6, which commemorates the visit of the magi. In fact, the earliest celebrations of the season focused mostly on Epiphany. People gave gifts on Epiphany because the magi had given gifts. The entire celebration then began migrating backwards to the first day of the Christmas season rather than to its conclusion. (Now, of course, if you go into stores—or, this year, have gifts delivered—it seems to have migrated all the way back to Hallowe’en, but that’s another story.)
In Britain, this day is called Boxing Day, and is a bank holiday (the UK version of a federal holiday). For many years, the chief feature of the day was packing up (in boxes, hence the name) leftover items from the Christmas Day feasting, as well as money and other gifts, usually secondhand clothing and necessities, and distributing them to the poor.
It’s also the feast of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr. (We talked a lot about him in May). Saints are traditionally celebrated on their death dates; we don’t actually know when Stephen died, but somehow his story got attached to this day. That’s what we are singing about when we begin that famous carol “Good King Wenceslaus looked out/ On the feast of Stephen.” It was St. Stephen’s Day, and Wenceslaus wanted to do good. And so he did, taking a feast to his poor neighbor in a kind of Boxing Day event.
What does all this have to do with Galatians 4, you may wonder? Simply this. Our redemption is a Big Deal. It’s so big we can hardly get our mind around it. Two thousand years of theological reflection, hymnwriting, preaching, devotion, and study later, and we are still grasping to explain what it could possibly mean that God—the God of the universe—redeemed those of us under the law who could not redeem ourselves, adopted us into the family of God, and filled us with his Spirit. Like I said: a Big Deal.
So today I would advise you to lean less into the explanation and more into the experience. Feast on this second day of Christmas secure in the knowledge that you are a child of God. Help others feast on this Boxing Day, this feast of Stephen, secure in the knowledge that they too are children of God. All of us were under the law. And now we are under grace. Merry Christmas.
How can you feast on God’s love today?
How can you help others feast?
No official song today (don’t worry, there’ll be one tomorrow), though you’re welcome to listen to the two I named in the devotional. Whatever else you do, read Galatians 4:4-7 over and over, meditating on its meaning for your own life.
Lord Jesus, thank you for coming to us as a human being just like us, born of a woman, born under the law. Thank you for coming to us as God, who could redeem those born under the law. Bless us, today and always. Amen.
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Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Understanding Life in Christ (Galatians 1:6–4:31)
Jennifer Woodruff Tait (PhD, Duke University) is the editor of and frequent contributor to Life for Leaders. She is also the managing editor of Christian History magazine and web editor for the Theology of Work Project, and a priest in the Episcopal Church. She has written a book of poetry, Histories of Us. Jennifer lives in Berea, Kentucky, with her husband, Edwin, and their two daughters.
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