December 25, 2019
Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
In Jonathan Swift’s book Gulliver’s Travels, written almost three hundred years ago, Gulliver finds himself on an island inhabited by tiny Lilliputians. These six-inch-tall men notice that Gulliver seldom did anything without consulting his watch. To them, the watch was Gulliver’s god, and it pointed out the time for every action of his life. You can relate, can’t you? Watches are a blessing, but they’re also reminders of the control that time has over us. We’re told to pay attention to the time. And how often do we hear ourselves say that we don’t have enough time? There’s especially true now at Christmastime! The last four weeks have had their hours filled with shopping, school, Christmas programs, sports, family dinners, travelling, etc. etc. It’s enough to wear everyone out. Time is a dictator, you only have so much of it, and you have to use it or lose it. Time consumes us. That’s why the good news today isn’t about time, it’s about how God is above time and how He uses time for His eternal purposes.
Paul says in Galatians 4, “But when the fullness of time came, God sent forth his Son.” “The fullness of time” is a wonderful phrase. We could say that it means that Jesus came at just the right time. He wasn’t too early. He wasn’t too late. He was right on time. The time was “full.” So how was the time full when Jesus was born that first Christmas? Why did God the Father send God the Son at the time he did? Here’s just a little history for you and why Jesus came at the perfect time.
When Alexander the Great conquered the known world of his day, his language, Greek, became the common language of the kingdom. No matter where you went, Spain, Egypt, Turkey or Italy, there were people who understood Greek. The common language enabled businesses to flourish and allowed cultures to interact. As a result of Alexander’s conquests, when Jesus came into the world, He met a world that shared a common language. And when His Gospel was taken to Spain, Egypt, Turkey, or Italy, and proclaimed in Greek, it could take root and grow. This explains why the New Testament was written in Greek and why the Old Testament was later translated into it. The heavenly Father used Alexander’s kingdom to prepare the world for the Savior’s birth. It was the fullness of time.
At Alexander’s death, his empire began to crumble. Wars and conflicts were everywhere. But then, in 63 BC, control was won by the newest world power—Rome. With a new empire came taxes, and so censuses were taken, including the census of Caesar Augustus which was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. It was this census that brought Joseph and Mary to their ancestral town, the place the Savior was to be born, the little town of Bethlehem.
With Rome in control, travel was generally easy and safe. Law and order ruled the land. Not before or after had this part of the world enjoyed such an extended period of peace. This peace enabled Jesus and His apostles, to travel freely to spread the Gospel. And they did so on the vast network of Roman roads that Caesar provided easy access to all the corners of the Roman Empire. Jesus could accomplish so much in His three shorts years of ministry and His disciples could soon start new churches all over the Roman empire all because the heavenly Father used Rome’s achievements to spread the Gospel. It was the fullness of time.
After the fall of Israel, which came before Alexander the Great, God’s people were scattered all over the known world. These Jews had to find a way to keep their faith alive, and it was at this time they began the synagogues. Here in these synagogues was kept alive the hope for the Messiah. And the synagogues were the first places Jesus and His disciples went to proclaim that the Messiah had come! It was in these places that the Gospel message first took shape into the Christian Church. The heavenly Father used the dispersions (which were meant to destroy Israel) to spread the Good News of the Savior of Israel and the entire world. It was the fullness of time.
The good news for you is that in days past and even today, it is the fullness of time. Our loving God is the Lord of time and history. Our times are in His almighty hands. You can be comforted that God is in control whatever faces you. If your heavenly Father can use the kingdoms and events of world history to accomplish His purposes, surely He can use the events in your life to care for you and to accomplish His will for you. We have a mighty and loving God. Our times are in His hands, and even when our eyes cannot see it, our spiritual eyes can see that God takes care of us. His reign over time is for our good.
St. Paul tells us in Romans 5, “While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” In His Son Jesus, almighty God took time for us. In Christ Jesus, almighty God broke into time and at the cross defeated sin, death, and the devil. And He did this for you! You, who by nature have no time for God, who are too busy and too consumed with time, who time and time again rebel against Him, who deserve His eternal wrath, instead receive His love and mercy. God tells us through the prophet Isaiah, “With everlasting love I will have compassion on you.” This is the timeless message of Christmas! Jesus became man because He is the compassion of God made into human flesh.
One historical aspect we haven’t covered doesn’t seem to fit with Christmas, and yet it also occurs in the fullness of time. God commanded the building of the Temple to be the place where He met with the people and it was in the Temple that God in human flesh met with and taught His people. It was in that Temple that the perfect Lamb of God would come on the day of Passover, when lambs were sacrificed for the sins of the people and declare Himself to be the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world.
It was in the Temple where hatred would grow towards the Son of God to the point that He would be handed over to the Romans for execution. The Jews would’ve liked to have stoned Jesus, but only the Romans could execute an accused. And what was a common way for the Romans to take the life of criminals and undesirables? Crucifixion. Isaiah said He was chastised to bring us peace, and He was, by Roman whips. Isaiah said that the Savior would be pierced, and He was, by Roman nails. King David said that men would gamble for the clothes of Christ, and they did because Roman soldiers were entitled to the clothing of the condemned. The Romans enjoyed their method of execution, and in the fullness of time, Jesus allowed them to use their common method for His sacrifice! Jesus came to die when it was God’s perfect time, and it was in the fullness of time that everything was done to save you from your sins. His death took place in 33 AD, but it transcends time so that in this time and in this place, you will find the meaning behind Christmas, your salvation.
Christmas reminds us that God is the Lord of time. He uses time and history and the events of our lives for His eternal purposes. In Christ Jesus, He has taken time for us. You’re invited this day to slow down and receive His Christmas gifts of love, mercy, and forgiveness. He invites you to entrust your lives and times to Him for He is the Lord of time and He uses it for you.
Now the peace which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen