1st Sunday in Advent December 2, 2018
60, 64, 126, 62
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
Grace, mercy, and peace are yours from God our Father and Christ Jesus, our Savior. Amen.
There are all kinds of words that people use to describe the Christmas season. The three most common descriptions of Christmas are peace, joy, and hope. Go to any greeting card store and you will be hard pressed to find a Christmas card that does not contain one of those three words. Well, Christmas is a time of peace, joy, and hope because this is the time of year that we celebrate the birth of the One who gives us peace with God, the joy of being in a right relationship with Him, and the hope of living in heaven.
Each of us could come with other words, too, that would be fitting descriptions of what Christmas is all about. For Advent, though, we’re going to focus on the word that I have chosen, and that word is miracle. Christmas is a time for miracles. More specifically, we are going to ponder four miracles: The Miracle of the Moment, The Miracle of the Message, The Miracle of the Method, and, right before Christmas Day, The Miracle in the Manger. We begin with the first one: “The Miracle of the Moment.” Our text is 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.
(Preacher remains silent for 60 seconds.)
One minute has just passed from the time you concluded reading our text. In the first few seconds, you probably didn’t think much about that silence. Then, after several more seconds, you may have begun to notice that this is something unusual. After about twenty seconds it may have gotten a little unnerving. In the last thirty seconds you may have wondered if there is any point to this exercise, and maybe it became a little uncomfortable. All of that over a matter of sixty seconds.
Now imagine waiting for four thousand years! That’s how long the world waited and waited and waited for God to fulfill the promise He made to send a Savior who would crush the head of Satan. That’s a long time to wait! We have a hard time waiting patiently for Christmas to come so we can open presents. Can you imagine waiting four thousand years for this gift from God? Year after year would come, and still no Savior. One generation after another is born, grows, and dies, and still no Savior. What would you think? Maybe God has decided not to keep His promise? Maybe all this Savior talk is just silly superstition? Maybe God doesn’t even exist?
Why did it take God so long to keep the promise to send Jesus? Our text gives us the answer when it says, “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son.” Here’s the thing about that answer, though—the fullness of time was from God’s perspective and not from man’s perspective. This is an important point to keep in mind. God is not an impatient being that has to have everything and have it right now. That may describe us, but it isn’t one of God’s attributes. We are the impatient ones. We are the ones who can only see the present and how our problems and troubles and wants need a solution right now, or, at least, so we think. God sees past the present. He sees the future and knows how and when to keep His promises for our good.
But what about the moment of Jesus’ birth makes it so important that God chose that moment to be the moment of His birth? Well, there are all kinds of theories. Here’s one popular theory: the birth of the Roman Empire made it easier for the good news of the Gospel to travel farther and faster. The Romans built nice roads and established a common language throughout most of Europe and a significant part of Africa and Asia. People could travel to all those places quickly and so good news could travel faster.
Is that what made that moment the perfect moment? Maybe! Then again, maybe it was because God knew that the nation of Judah was about to be destroyed by the Romans and so God decided that the time to send Jesus was before that happened. Or maybe it was the right moment because of where the stars were in the night sky so that the wise men could be led to Jesus and then take back to their country the good news of the Savior’s birth. Or maybe there was some other reason. Ultimately, the answer to the question is that we don’t know.
What we do know, is that the moment that Jesus was born was exactly the right moment and that God wasn’t just sitting up in heaven waiting for the right moment to show itself. He was always involved in every moment of history, working things out so that when He sent forth His Son it would happen just as He had been planning from eternity. In other words, that moment was a miraculous moment. It couldn’t have happened any sooner and it couldn’t have happened any later.
The same is true in connection with Jesus’ suffering and death. Three times in the Gospel of John we are specifically told that Jesus’ “hour had not yet come.” This statement is made in connection with His arrest, trial, and crucifixion. The point is that God wasn’t under the pressure of time or waiting to see how time would unfold. He was working all things in His own perfect timing to bring about the one, perfect sacrifice for sins. And when that hour came, Jesus submitted to it and laid down His life as the ransom payment for the sins of the world.
The Miracle of the Moment of Jesus’ birth demonstrates to us two trustworthy truths. First of all, it demonstrates to us that our God is in a far better position to determine when and how to help His people. Sometimes, when we are caught up in our own worries and fears, we wonder why God isn’t doing something about it. The reality is that God is always working to help us, but He knows better than we do the proper time for that help. This is truth gives us the freedom to relax and let God control things and bring about His help in His moment for our good.
Secondly, the Miracle of the Moment of Jesus’ birth demonstrates to us our God’s complete devotion to our salvation. As I said before, He wasn’t just sitting by in heaven searching for the right time. He was working to bring about the perfect time. The time was perfect because God Himself determined the perfect time to accomplish it our redemption. When the time was right, “God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law that we might receive the adoption as sons.” No greater miracle has ever occurred than three miracles mentioned in those words—God takes on a human nature, the sinless God becomes cursed by His own holy Law, and sinful humans are adopted into God’s family. In order to bring about those three miracles, God first brought about of the Miracle of the Moment of the Savior’s birth. AMEN!
Ministry by Mail is a weekly publication of the Church of the Lutheran Confession. Subscription and staff information may be found online at www.clclutheran.org/ministrybymail.
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.