My dear friends; Merry Christmas.
Merry Christmas is the classic and treasured greeting for this season. And for me it has always meant more than have a happy time of celebration. The entire idea in celebrating the birth of the Christ, or the Messiah, of remembering the events recalled in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, is that this is an event that has changed the world. In one of those insightful passages of Paul’s, he puts it this way, “When came the fullness of time, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law so that we might receive the adoption as sons (and daughters), and because we are sons (and daughters), God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts…” (Gal. 4: 4-6 GK).
There is, of course, more, and also several sermons here, but I want to concentrate on the remark, ” the fullness of time.” There are many reasons that this was the “appointed time,” the “time of God’s fulfillment,” or as I here translated literally, “the fullness of time.” There was no more perfect time or place than the first century, and in an insignificant province in the far eastern edge of the Roman Empire. For here a small group of ancient Aramaic tribes had survived centuries of conquest, exile, and abuse yet had been divinely persevered, despite their many failures, as the repository of the worship of the one true God. And by the first century they had at last become hardened in that worship, even translating their holy scriptures into the universal language of the eastern half of that Empire. This would provide the first scriptures for the movement that would spring from that, “Son, born of a woman.”
The Roman Empire also had by this time swept the seas of the remnants of pirates, their wars of conquest reaching a zenith. Now there had been decades of what was called the “Pax Romana,” the peace of Rome. Travel was relatively safe, and the Roman genus for building had laced the Empire with good roads. There was that common languages Koine Greek, which made communication and thus the proclamation of the Gospel so much easier. And there were strategic cities within easy reach for the adventurous, and those eager to spread the good news.
These Aramaic tribes we know as Israel, were also fully aware that Daniel’s vision of the “Seventy Weeks” was close to fulfillment. There was as a result the expectation, the desire, the longing for the “coming anointed one,” and “the end of sin and to atone for iniquity” (Dan. 9:24-27). Surely as well there were those who remembered the visit some thirty years prior of strange visitors from the East, asking to see the newborn king. This followed sadly by the messy murders of a handful of infants. But at the time it was just another of too many acts of brutality by Herod, the Roman vassal king of Judah. This all would but add to the sense of expectation. Then the appearance of a “prophet” in the mold of Elijah, dressed like him, and even appearing in the wilderness like him, with a message of judgment on those in power. All the pieces were in place.
It was indeed “the fullness of time.” It was, we are told, what God had prepared, “before the foundation of the world” (1 Pe.1:20). Here our Lord would bring about the fulfillment of that ancient story in the stars, the culmination of that promised seed, that greater king of the lineage of David. And when the Archangel Gabriel visited a maiden and the Holy Spirit “overshadowed” her, it was complete. God had begun what would be the accomplishing of His purpose, our redemption. This is what for so long had been hoped for, desired, and “attested in the faith” of so many. Those of old, however, would “not receive what was promised, for God foresaw something better which would include us” (Heb. 11:39-40 GK). God in His Son would bring about this that is “better.” That all who believe, “might receive adoption as His children.” Yes, this is all about our Lord gathering a people for His own, what scripture calls His “bride,” the “New Jerusalem,” the “great multitude which no man could number.” This is what I would have us all give thanksgiving for. That beyond human understanding, what is His amazing grace and unbounded love, He has deemed it His purpose and desire that we should share His eternal existence. That we are to rule and reign even now with Him as His sons and daughters, what could be “better?”
May this Christmas be one of thanksgiving for the fullness of time,
Thomas R. Wyatt