In the Fullness of Time

Several years ago I was invited to speak at a community Thanksgiving service in Bucyrus, Ohio. My pastor friend John Cory asked me to preach at the service, scheduled for the Sunday before Thanksgiving. As a young pastor, I was excited for the opportunity and wanted to make the most of it. Unfortunately……I botched the date. Somehow I thought the event was scheduled for the Sunday after Thanksgiving instead of the Sunday before Thanksgiving…..oops!

I will never forget the night of the actual service. My wife and I were out that evening and when we came home I noticed there was a message on our answering machine. The message (from John) went something like this. “Uh Dan……where are you? The service is supposed to start in 5 minutes! If you can’t make it, please call me so we can figure something else out.” You can just imagine how I was feeling after hearing that message. I was horrified and I desperately wanted to go back and rectify the situation! By now, however, that was not possible as the service was already over. I had the time right, the location right, I knew what I was going to speak on, but here’s the kicker – I was a week late when it came to the date.

Now, in the whole scheme of things, this mistake was not a huge deal. I felt terrible about it at the time, but I was able to get a hold of John that night and I apologized profusely. He was very gracious and said that one of the other pastors in town came up with a message on the fly and everything turned out just fine. The only reason I share this story is to illustrate the fact that sometimes our timing is off. Even people, like me, who pride themselves on being prompt, reliable, and on-time have those moments where we are late and even no-show. In stark contrast to that, our Lord is always on time. In fact, His timing is perfect!

Recall what the apostle Paul writes in Galatians 4:4-5. “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law,  to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” What this verse tells us is that at the perfect moment in history, God sent Jesus into the world. After centuries of waiting for the promised Messiah, God’s set time had arrived. I remember hearing one teacher say concerning this verse (Gal. 4:4), “the moment was pregnant with anticipation.” God’s due date had arrived, the long wait was finally over and now Jesus, the One who would “save His people from their sins,” would be born of the virgin.

You probably remember that last year something extremely rare occurred – a solar eclipse. Around the time of the eclipse, I remember watching footage of a news clip from the last solar eclipse in North America. It dated all the way back to February, 1979 and it happened to mention that the next one would not be until August 21, 2017. I was struck by the precision of it all. God has made this universe to operate in an extremely ordered and regular fashion. The next solar eclipse visible from North America will be April 8, 2024. This goes to show how everything happens exactly according to the plan of God.

This Christmas season as we celebrate the first Advent of Christ, remember that we serve  a God who is never early, never late, but only ever right on time. Scripture also tells us there will be a second Advent when Jesus will return in glory (Acts 1:11). Yet again, this will happen in “the fullness of time,” and according to the sovereign plan of God. May we rejoice and celebrate the wonder of His coming this Christmas season.

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14

Sharing Christ This Christmas

For years now, we have lamented over how “Christ” is being taken out of Christmas. For example, this morning I drove by a house with a giant sign that read “Merry X-Mass.” And I am sure at some point during this Christmas season you will hear “Happy Holidays.”  As I pondered this trend, it occurred to me that we shouldn’t be surprised by it. We can protest and demand that people say “Merry Christmas,” but why should we expect everyone to celebrate this holiday when many don’t even believe in Christ or know about the Christ of the Bible?

I was talking to someone in church on Sunday who told me that he recently witnessed to a man who had never even heard the Christmas story. That is the shocking reality of the world we live in. There is a lack of Biblical literacy that permeates our society. But rather than demand everyone say “Merry Christmas,” perhaps a better approach would be to use this season of Christmas as a platform to share the gospel. One simple idea is to give someone you know a New Testament Bible and encourage them to read the Christmas story and learn about the person of Jesus Christ. It’s simple, but it could be life changing for that person.

It’s a wonderful privilege to freely celebrate Christmas each year. As Christian’s we know that Christmas is all about the incarnation – how God came to earth in human form to dwell among us. No matter what kind of language the world uses, we know that this season is all about the birth of Christ and the hope that we find in him. To the unbeliever, it doesn’t make sense. “The word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing” (1 Corinthians 1:18). To the believer, it is the glorious message of salvation and eternal life in Christ.

Let me encourage you not to miss this opportunity to tell the Christmas story to those who need to hear it most. Be bold and be prayerful and then watch how God works. One more thing – Merry Christmas!