Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Wednesday, December 24, 2014
The Time of Fulfillment - Christmas Eve - December 24, 2014 - Text: Luke 2:1-7
Our test is Luke 2:1-7: 1In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. This is our text.
This year our Advent through Christmas and New Year’s Eve theme has taken us from the promise of a Messiah to its ultimate fulfillment in Jesus. We began three weeks ago hearing some of the promises or prophecies and we heard how those promises and prophecies had their fulfillment according to God’s perfect timing. Two weeks ago we revisited some of the timing issues that have been in the Nativity Tradition for so many years. Last week we took some time to scrutinize some of the extra Biblical people and items that have been in our Christmas Nativity Tradition to see if our tradition really does follow the Bible. Our purpose is to make sure we get it right so that when we tell others of these historic events they will not come back later and say, hey, you mixed up some stuff or added some stuff in and thus will not believe anything we say. This evening, Christmas Eve evening, the night in which we begin our celebration of the birth of God in flesh, our Messiah, even the Christ, we look at the issue of time and God’s perfect timing.
From this text, we can understand the concept of time in two ways. First we can think of time in terms a calendar year and the events of history, about what time of history are we talking. The apostle Paul reminds us in Galatians, “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law” (Gal. 4:4). Paul is speaking about history. In God’s timing, the world was at the right time. The right people were in power. Quirineus was governor of Syria. He had called for a census to be taken in order to get an accounting of the number of people over which he was ruler. Because they were from the tribe of Judah, Mary and Joseph were compelled to go to a certain place, to their home town of Bethlehem, so the baby would be born in Bethlehem, according to God’s prophecy. The nations were in the right place. The timing of the events of the world were just right.
The history of the world had to be at such a place so that the nation of Israel would be set to receive her king, at least some of the nation of Israel were set to receive her king. Others of Israel were not ready to accept Jesus as the Christ and they refused and rejected Him as such. Interestingly enough the first Christians were of the Jewish culture and yet, when the Christ was born, after Jesus resurrection and ascension, their Jewish religion meant nothing anymore so that they were now Christians.
The second understanding of time is that of gestation, the forty weeks, or nine months for a baby to be in His mother’s womb before He is born. Earlier Luke relates the history of the birth of John the Baptist who had been born to Elizabeth. This birth of John the Baptist was important as it was prophesied that He would be born who would be the forerunner of Jesus, that is the one who would announce the coming of the Christ.
The “time came for her to give birth,” means that Mary had been pregnant for 40 weeks. The child that grew in her womb had reached the age and development that He was ready to be born into the world. And Jesus was born, true God in human flesh in the normal way in which all human beings are born, or are at least according to God’s design to be born.
Finally, on a minor note, the fact that “while they were there, the time came for her to give birth,” indicates that they had been in Bethlehem for enough time to find shelter, room and board. Contrary to tradition, to Hollywood, to our yearly children’s programs, Mary and Joseph did not rush into Bethlehem seeking a place so that Mary might immediately give birth to her child.
What does this mean? First and foremost this means that God is the One who is ultimately in charge. God is the One who created all things out of nothing and who created time for us. God who lives outside of time, who lives in what we describe as the eternal present does all and gives all to us. He created us to love us even when we sin. Indeed, we are all conceived and born in sin. When Adam and Eve disobeyed Him and brought sin and a curse on this earth, their sin is born in each one of us. Yet, again, because God loves us so much, at the time of Adam and Eve’s sin, God stepped in and promised He would take care of their sin. He is the One who set our redemption in motion.
With that said, God’s timing is perfect timing. God’s timing was such that through His prophets, through those He set to rule over His people and the people and culture groups of the world, He stirred in them, believers and unbelievers alike, to make decisions that would make sure that all things according to His plan and time would be arranged to be ready at just the right time. That Jesus was born when He was born and where He was born was no mere coincidence, but was guided by the very hand of God Himself.
God stepped into time, into human history, into His story, to be born of a woman, as a human being as God in human flesh. Our God is not a God who is far off. He is not a God who created a world, wound it up so to speak and then left it to wind itself down, no He is a God who is near and dear to us. Our God is a God who is active in our lives, if not directly, which is not His usual way of being in our lives, but indirectly, working through means, and especially through His means of grace, His Holy Word and His Sacraments, giving to us all the gifts and blessings He has to give, faith, forgiveness, life and salvation.
Jesus was and is true God in human flesh in order to accomplish what all of humanity and all of Israel could not, live perfectly. Jesus had to be truly a human being. God’s command was that we are perfect and we cannot be perfect. We are conceived and born in sin. Every inclination of our heart is evil all the time. Our nature is to sin and we daily sin much and are in need of forgiveness. Jesus was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit making Him truly God, and truly sinless. He was born without sin and He never sinned.
The fullness of the Gospel is not simply that Jesus died on the cross. The fullness of the Gospel is that Jesus lived perfectly for us in our place. Jesus lived perfectly fulfilling all the prophecies concerning the coming Christ. Jesus lived perfectly obeying all of God’s laws and commands perfectly. Jesus never sinned for us.
Jesus accomplished what no other person could accomplish. He accomplished the restoration, even our relationship with Himself. Because Jesus was born in perfection, because Jesus never sinned, He was able to be our substitute, to take our place, to take our sins upon Himself in order to pay the price, to suffer the eternal spiritual death penalty for us, in our place, the price and cost for our sins. He traded His perfect life for our imperfect life. He paid the price for ours sins for us in our place. He died so that we might not have to die. What we should have received He received, eternal spiritual death and punishment. What He should have received, we received, forgiveness of sins and eternal life in heaven.
This evening we begin our celebration of the birth of God in flesh, of the beginning of God’s work of salvation for all people, of the birth of the Child who was born to die so that we might live. In the fullness of time, that is in the fullness of God’s perfect time, when He had the events of the world set at a certain place, the place most effective and efficient to work out our salvation, God sent His Son into our world to live, suffer, die and rise for us in our place. His timing is perfect. His substitutionary atonement was perfect and was enough. Nothing else needs to be done for our salvation. God has done it all and He gives it all to us and He moves and stirs in us our response of faith to say to Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.