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In the Fullness of Time

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In the Fullness of Time

So many of the events that surround this Christmas time are out of my control. I have been forced to change traditions and give up on some planned events. This Christmas time in my family, in the church, and in this world appeared out of sync. Nothing lines up for me the way I expect. When will the time arrive I can do what I want how I want?

The first person mentioned in the account of the Christmas told by St. Luke is neither Mary, nor Joseph, nor the Shepherds. Fifteen hundred miles away in Rome Ceasar Augustus determined it was time for a census. Paul Maier, in his book In the Fullness of Time, writes, "Luke, more than any other New Testament author, is very careful to anchor biblical events into the secular history of his day.” It was the decision of the Ceasar that led to the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. The home of Joseph and Mary was in Nazareth. Since both Mary and Joseph were distant descendants of King David, they traveled to Bethlehem, David’s city.

The time to travel was not convenient for Mary who was pregnant. The events in this world continue to seem inconvenient for God’s people. Yet God has a good sense of timing. He knows exactly the right moment to arrive in this world with His grace and mercy. St. Paul wrote to the Galatians, “When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children” (Galatians 4:4-5). I am reminded each Christmas season that this season is a wonderful time because of what God has done. We can make all sorts of plans and work to make the celebration of Christmas perfect but the timing of Christmas always arrives in a world that needs a savior. 

Christmas time is perfect because of Jesus and not us. Our calendar divides our time into years B.C. and A.D. But even the timing of this pivot in our calendar can remind us that this world misunderstands the timing of God. It is not likely that Jesus was born on December 25, A.D. 1. The Gospel of Matthew tells us about the wise men visiting Herd the Great. Herod the Great died in the spring of 4 B.C., and this king was very much alive during the visit of the wise men. Jesus was therefore likely born during the winter of 5-4 B.C. Dionysius Exiguus, a monk-mathematician-astronomer in the sixth-century, reformed the Roman calendar to make it pivot upon the birth of Christ instead of the founding of the city of Rome. Dionysius placed the birth of Jesus in year 753 of the founding of Rome. Herod died only 749 years after Rome’s founding. Dionysius got the date wrong, but he did understand that all of history pivots on the birth of Jesus.

We do not celebrate the date on the calendar. We do trust that our lives pivot on the promises of Jesus. Our lives do not pivot on COVID, vaccines, government mandates, or anything else in this world. Now is the time to rejoice that God is with us no matter what time it is on the clock or the calendar. Your Christmas celebration may not look perfect this world but trust in God and rejoice that your life pivots toward eternity because of Jesus Christ.

Posted by Evan Gaertner