No Longer a Slave but a Son: Living the New Year in the Father’s House

My nephew running around a frosty Model Village

A while ago, I heard one of the best descriptions of what it is like to have God as our Father I have ever heard. I was reminded of it as my nephew ran, entranced, around the tiny streets of a model village a few days ago. Imagine a little boy running around an attraction like this, or perhaps a theme park. He is overjoyed, amazed, running from one ride to the next. But later, he loses his parents, and in a panic, starts to cry. Now, the last thing on his mind are the attractions all around him; all he wants now are his mother and father. He won’t be able to think of anything else until they find him. And when he is found, what happiness and relief – his enjoyment of everything returns.

Isn’t this like the experience of belonging to God, of living in his House? When we are in his presence, sure of his love, certain of his providence, how much more can we enjoy our lives and everything we experience each day. But without him, isn’t there anxiety, an unexplained fear in the depth of our hearts?

The light breaking through clouds on Christmas Eve in the Cotswolds

Today, I am moved by the reading from Numbers for the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, where the blessing God asks Aaron to give to the Israelites includes this invocation,

The Lord let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you!

The Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace!

For me, it speaks so evocatively of what it is like to live in the Father’s house. His “face shines upon” me, because I am his daughter, no longer lost, but found by him, and living in his presence forever. Living under his gaze, his gaze of “kindness”, his desire for my peace. And how overwhelming this line from Galatians 4, also in today’s readings,

So you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son then also an heir, through God.

No longer a slave, but a SON! In what ways do we still view our Father as if we were his slave? Perhaps we don’t believe fully that his plans will lead to peace and goodness for us. Perhaps there is still some suspicion in our hearts that if we give ourselves completely to him we will be worse off. Perhaps there is mistrust that he can possibly love every bit of us, unconditionally.

An icy Christmas walk

He knows how deep-rooted our suspicion and mistrust is, so he went to the farthest lengths to uproot them. He was “born of a woman, born under the law, to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” (Galatians 4:5) He took on every aspect of our own human experience and condition, to show us we could trust him. And ultimately, he laid down his own life on the Cross, so we could belong fully to the Father’s house, “access all areas” – we are sons, but not only that, we are heirs.

Over Christmas, we are often surrounded by family and friends, in days that merge into one. It is a strange but comforting existence as we sink back deeply into what is “home”, embraced by love which paradoxically challenges and affirms us. Stepping into January, we will be embarking anew into another existence, emptied of decorations, abundance of food, the daily warmth and challenge of family surrounding us. There is a cold but hopeful freshness about going back to ordinary life and work, ordinary relationships and existence.

And yet, the deepest warmth, security, love, embrace remain. That deepest reality is the truth of our Father’s house where, even if our daily life is dark, tedious, or a struggle, he is there… the foundation of it, upholding us, loving us… “Yes, even in this, you are not slaves, you are sons – heirs!”

Let’s return to our daily lives standing firm in this very real dignity: I am not lost, I am found; I am not a slave, I am free; I am a child of God!