Emmanuel, Our Redeemer

As we prepare to celebrate the birth of our Redeemer, the opening words from a beautiful hymn keep running through my mind: “There is a redeemer, Jesus God’s own son.” Redemption isn’t something we normally think about at Christmas, but that’s really what it’s all about. We don’t often use the word in everyday life, unless we’re talking about turning in a coupon to save money or exchanging points for merchandise. Some of us remember saving green stamps in books and redeeming them for just about anything. We sometimes talk about redeeming time, particularly making up for a misspent youth or wasted time.

Many think of redemption as a churchy word and might not be clear on the meaning. One well-known story of redemption is found in the book of Ruth, a biblical love story, if you will, of a young woman’s tragedy and triumph, and her hero-kinsman-redeemer, Boaz. Ruth’s experience helps us understand what it means to be redeemed.

Under Israelite law, the closest relative of a widow (enter Ruth) could, upon her request, marry her and thus restore the land belonging to the family, as well as continue the family line of the deceased husband. When Ruth lay at Boaz’ feet on the threshing floor, she wasn’t being inappropriate; she was claiming her right to make him her kinsman-redeemer. A closer relative who had the first prerogative declined to marry Ruth and the rest is history – Ruth took her place in the genealogy of Jesus.

By marrying Ruth, who was a gentile daughter-in-law of the wife of one of his relatives – a nobody to him – Boaz restored her honor, dignity, land and inheritance. By extension, Naomi also got back her life and was given a future and hope for more sons.

Boaz was a type of Christ, pointing to the time when Jesus would be the kinsman-redeemer of all humanity and would buy us back from sin and death. In what has been called The Great Exchange, Jesus gave himself for us, restoring our hope and future. His sacrifice saves us from bondage to the wrong master and frees us to be in Christ, with blessings now and hope for eternal life with him.

The most beautiful thing about our redemption is that it wasn’t a transaction. Just as Ruth had nothing to offer Boaz but herself, we have nothing to offer Jesus but ourselves—no coupon or green stamps required. It was a plan God formulated before the foundation of the universe, and it was motivated and shaped by one thing: his amazing love.

By becoming human and going through each stage of life – from zygote to embryo to fetus, then infant to child to preteen and on to teenage and adulthood – Jesus redeemed every bit of life by taking our lives into his own life. Just as Boaz changed Ruth’s life, making her part of his family and no longer an outsider, so Jesus has brought us into the circle of Father, Son and Holy Spirit and we are outsiders no more. Our Kinsman-Redeemer became one of us to make us one with him.

Merry Christmas!

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