Most of us are pretty clear Jesus was born TO Mary.

Most of us are pretty certain Jesus was born IN a stable or barn or cave.

But under WHAT was Jesus born?

Born under a bad sign, a ceiling, or the Star of Bethlehem are not the answers I have in mind! Let’s take a look at how the Apostle Paul describes Jesus’ birth:

“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.” Galatians 4:4-5.

Jesus was born under the law. What does that mean? Jesus was born under the sphere of divine and human obligations. He was born under the weights and demands of human existence in a world bound by sin, death, and the devil. In short, the Son of God was born into the world as we know it.

PNW author David James Duncan, in The River Why, compares trout and infants, describing (though not purposely) what it means to be born “under the law.”

“A fish without an exact weight and length is a nonentity, whereas the sixteen-incher or the twelve-pounder leaps out of the imagination, splashing the brain with cold spray. The strange implication is that numbers are more tangible than flesh; fish without vital statistics are fish without being. And this digital fisherman-consciousness has seeped into most facets of life. One of the most telling examples is this: a human child at birth undergoes a ritual almost identical to that inflicted upon trophy trout at death, to wit 1) the fish is whacked on the head, thus putting it out of its misery; the infant is whacked on the behind, this initiating it into its misery. 2) the fish is placed on a scale, weighed to the quarter ounce and measured to the quarter inch; the infant endures identical treatment. 3) the fish is stripped of the coating of slime that protected it in the water; the infant is purposelessly relieved of its equivalent coating. 4) the fish is placed in a cold rectangular receptacle to await the taxidermist who will stuff it, creating an illusion of healthy flesh on its lifeless body; the infant is placed in a warm rectangular receptacle to await the parents who will stuff it, hopefully creating genuine healthy flesh upon its living body.” From The River Why

What does it mean for any of us to be “born of a woman, born under the law”? It means upon birth we are thrown into a world that will shock, measure, label, and clean us up for healthy and right living…and this process continues until our death. The shocking comparison Duncan makes between a live infant and a dead trout serves to remind us that to be born under the law is also to be born under the power of death. The law justly declares that the wages of sin is death.

Now, in the fullness of time, Christ was born under the law of sin and death. He was born into the inevitability of death. He came under the law’s curse to redeem those under the curse of the law.

This and every Christmas, we celebrate Christ born TO Mary. Take a few moments to reflect on Christ born UNDER the law. Give thanks to the LORD – the law does not hold the final label on our identity!

Pastor Tom