One of the most beautiful Scriptural images that emerges at this time of year is embodied in Galatians 4:4 – the idea that God sent Christ into the world when “the time was full.” The text cradles Christmas themes quite well, perhaps mixing together some of the sweet and tender thoughts that come at this time of year. God waiting for the right time–historical and cultural conditions being optimal for the Savior’s arrival.
The facts indicate otherwise: These were not the best of times for God to climax the long process of deliverance. This “fullness of time” was perhaps less Christmas-beautiful than we have thought. The people of God were in a sorry state, their country crushed by a cruel empire. Their economy was controlled by corrupt elites who were in cahoots with religious leaders. Spiritual thought was fractured into several ideological fragments, each competing for the attention and allegiance of the faithful. Religion and politics were thoroughly mixed with each other, power and piety stirred together in an ugly mélange. Rebellion and resistance existed in uneasy tension with complicity and apathy. For all but a few who luxuriated atop the societal pyramid, daily life could be hopeless. There was not much “fullness of years” for most folks!
And yet, God chose to insert Jesus into this mess. For God, fullness-of-time or the-right-time was not some alignment of twinkling stars, some gentle collection of beauty, righteousness or justice. Precisely the opposite was true.
For God—then and now!—the timing was perfect, not the times. We all need rescuing. Then and now, this Baby Savior becomes the hope that God’s deliverance is coming our way. No matter how bad things seem to be, no matter how old we are.
This feels like a Christmas theme I can appreciate fully….
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