Because you are sons, God sent forth the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, who cries, “Abba, Father” (v. 6).
St. Paul selects a word, “krazon”, to describe the Spirit’s work in Christians coming before the Father; a shriek from the heart. The image is that of van Gogh's painting, “the Scream” or Michael Corleone’s contorted face at his daughter’s killing meant for him (Godfather III).
Our cry before God registers a communion of pathos with God’s impassionate nature but elected of old to enter our pain in the passion of Christ.
You get the point, baptismal sonship into Christ evokes within us not only faith but deep lamentation over sin, a simpatico with the Father’s heart; God is nether rationally removed toward our tribulations nor distant from our pain and loss on account of sin.
How have we come to cry out in grief, “Abba, Father”? Well, baptized or not, heaven’s warfare against evil, victorious on the cross, is not yet fully concluded. In these end-times we subsist in flesh born of rebellion, a world ruled by cosmic powers, and administered through complicit earthly princes.
At Christmas “midnight” mass, we observed that the world celebrates a “happy time” for a day but ignores and misconstrues the heft of the season. On this First Sunday after Christmas the church confronts the underlying heft of our Nativity joy; the world’s enmity toward God and Mary’s Babe described:
“Then Herod… became exceedingly enraged, and he sent and did away with all the children who were in Bethlehem and all its district—from two years of age and younger… Then what was spoken though Jeremiah… was fulfilled, ‘A sound in Ramah was heard, weeping and much mourning, Rachel lamenting her children; and she was not willing to be comforted because they are not’” (Mt. 2:16-18).
The church’s Christmas joy acknowledges God’s response to Rachel’s lament over her children in Mary’s Babe. Let’s back-up a second. Sin breeds ignorance. If we despise or disrespect our neighbor it is because we are, not only ignorant of his plight, but in all probability hold him in contempt for failing to acknowledge our “superiority”.
Such intolerant self-righteousness is pervasive throughout all aspects of life; not the least, man’s despise of God and the desire to be rid of his king. In the endeavor we are willing to destroy the Holy Innocents. Thus, does sin’s ignorance of God feed a cascade into the abyss.
Against our posture Jesus commanded, “first take the plank out of your own eye” (Mt. 7:5); later prescribing the antidote to a further descent into sin, “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent (Jn. 17:3). It is the revealed knowledge of God in Christ by that trumps sin’s ignorance.
Through “Rachel’s” lament for her children at the hands of those pursing the Babe into Egypt, as Pharaoh pursed God’s son Israel out of Egypt, we reflect upon the heart of God from old, “For [YHWH] said, ‘Surely they are my people, sons who will not deal falsely [at my covenant kindnesses]’ so he became their Savior. In all their anguish he had anguish” (Isa. 63:8, 9a).
It is the essence of God’s love that in Christ he enters into the hash and chaos of our sin to bear us up in the dual wings of reciprocating lament. On occasion children of the church refuse God’s comfort; sometimes in grief lashing out, even accusing God the cause of travail or failure of presence.
But God by the promise of Immanuel is present for our comfort; yet the world trivializes that God takes on our anguish as his own, opting for a “happy time” day that ignores the looming cross at Jesus’ birth; God’s anguish for our comfort.
For the world and many “Christians” the “happy time” day Christmas has ended; the lighting and accoutrements re-packed in boxes for another twelve months, and gifts being returned in exchange for things we really desire.
But the things of our anguish are not ameliorated by a singular “happy day”; they continue to hang, albatross-like about necks; refusing the comfort of God’s presence, who has not packed up nor left “Rachel” bereft.
Those whose hatred of God attempt, by violence to snatch his kingdom from us (Mt. 11:12); still Christ remains, the Crucified One, with his church. By Immanuel, God with us in word and Sacrament we come to ever-increasing knowledge of him who saves, “in his love and in his pity he himself [redeems his people and… [carries us as] … the days of old” (Isa. 63:9b, c).
We are saved by faith through his covenantal faithfulness; so also we have Life in the knowledge that he is our God, not only in “happy times”; but as Christ is joined with “Rachel” and her children who suffer and by the Spirit are sons and daughters crying for comfort, “Abba, Father”. Amen.